PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 29 (UPI) — Cardiac surgery patients who are single, divorced or widowed have a 40 percent higher chance of dying post-operation than their married peers, researchers found in a new study.
The research supports previous studies that have found advantages for married people, because of the benefits of having close social support, but why marriage is beneficial and associated with survival or not developing new functional disabilities after surgery is not clear.
“While it has been established that the chances of survival following major surgery may be better among married versus unmarried persons, it is not known how marriage ‘marries’ with actual postoperative function,” said Dr. Mark Neuman, an assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania, in a press release. “Understanding this may be useful for identifying patients who may be in need of additional support and targeted interventions aimed at improving functional recovery.”
Neuman and Dr. Rachel Werner, also an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, reviewed data on 1,576 cardiac surgery patients who took part in the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study. The study started in 1998, and participants were checked each year until 2010.
The researchers analyzed data from the participants on marital status, age, sex and comorbidities at enrollment and in the last interview before surgery, as well as how they function in basic life tasks such as eating and getting dressed.
At the outset of the Michigan study, 65 percent of the participants were married 12 percent were divorced or separated, 21 percent were widowed and two percent were never married.
Follow-up interviews over the course of the following decade showed that married people had about a 40 percent less chance of dying or developing a new disability. About 19 percent of the married participants in the study had either of the two outcomes, while 29 percent of the divorced or separated subjects, 39 percent of the widowed and 20 percent of those who had never been married had either died or developed a new disability.
The researchers said future studies need to be done to understand how marital status and surgical outcomes are linked.
The study is published in JAMA Surgery.