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Marriage May Do a Heart Good for Bypass Surgery
Date:8/22/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 22 (HealthDay News) -- New research finds that married people are more than twice as likely as single people to be alive 15 years after coronary bypass surgery, although the findings can't prove that having a spouse has a protective effect.

In fact, the limitations of ethical research may make it impossible to ever prove that marriage is good for your health. Still, the study provides more evidence that having a long-term mate is good for you, said study co-author Harry T. Reis, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

In recent years, a number of studies have hinted at several apparent health benefits of marriage: it may slightly boost the odds of survival from colon cancer, for one thing, and it might help reduce pain in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

The problem is that it's hard to know for sure if marriage directly produces health benefits. It's possible, for example, that people who are naturally healthier are more likely to get married in the first place, maybe because they're happier than sicker folks.

In the new study, researchers tracked what happened to 225 people who underwent coronary bypass surgery from 1987 to 1990. Overall, 124 patients -- 55 percent -- survived for at least the next 15 years: 61 percent of the married patients and 30 percent of the unmarried.

Post-bypass survival odds fell for both unmarried women (only 26 percent of them were still alive at the end of the period) and unmarried men (only 36 percent were still alive). But a whopping 83 percent of happily married women and men were still around, the study found.

However, there was a catch: unhappy marriages -- defined as those in which patients said they weren't very satisfied -- spelled trouble for women. Only about 29 percent of those in unhappy marriages survived, while 60 percent of the men in unhappy marriages did.

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