Marriage tied to longer survival after heart bypass

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(CBS) Married people have a better shot at long-term survival after heart bypass surgery. In fact, happily married husbands and wives who have the surgery are more than three times as likely as single folks to be alive 15 years later, a new study showed.

The life-sustaining benefit of marriage is "every bit as important to survival after bypass surgery as more traditional risk factors like tobacco use, obesity, and high blood pressure," study author Dr. Harry Reis, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, said in a written statement.

For the study - published in the August 22 issue of the journal Health Psychology - researchers tracked the health of 225 men and women who had undergone bypass surgery between 1987 and 1990. Fifteen years later, 83 percent of happily married wives were still alive, compared with 28 percent of women who were in unhappy marriages and 27 percent of unmarried women.

How about the men? Eighty-three percent of happily married hubbies were still alive 15 year after surgery, versus 60 percent of men who were not so happily married and 36 percent of single men.

What is it about a good marriage that is good for the heart?

"Marriage gives you purpose in life, and feeling like you have a reason to live is an important part of doing the things you need to do to stay alive," Reis told HealthDay. "Married people also help each other, remind each other it's time to take their pills. And they probably eat healthier."

What's more, being in a nurturing relationship seems to give bypass patients extra motivation to "stick around so they can stay in the relationship that they like," Dr. Kathleen King, a retired professor from the university's nursing school and the study's lead author, said in the statement.