Turns out that aside from monogamy, loyalty and love, that ring on your finger might also be a symbol of longevity. Researchers from Duke University recently discovered that married men fare better health-wise post-surgery than single or divorced men. Specifically, single men are a third more likely to die within two years of having a non-heart surgery than married men. Divorced men have a 76 percent higher risk of dying within two years of surgery than married men.
These conclusions are sourced from a study that analyzed data of 11,588 adult men who underwent surgery over the course of 19 months. Sixty-eight percent of those men were married. While less than 10 percent of patient-subjects died within two years following their surgery, of those who did, divorced men had the highest risk, at 76 percent. Men who had never been married had a 53 percent risk. In other words, having a partner by your side after a major medical event is hugely beneficial to your health.
“This is the first study to demonstrate the protective effect of marriage across a wide variety of surgical procedures,” the Duke researchers concluded.
While there is no discernible link between marriage and post-surgery health, some speculate that the risk derives from loneliness. For instance, a study from 2016 found the same to be true in cancer patients: death rates among unmarried men were higher.
In that study, researchers acknowledged that while the effect could be explained by a dual incomes and better health insurance, “social support” also proved to be a key factor. Another study from 2011 reflects Duke’s results and found that married couples were more likely to recover from major surgery. In this instance, researchers claim that people in relationships tend to be healthier.
“There is something in a good relationship that helps people stay on track,” the study’s lead researcher said. “In fact, the effect of marital satisfaction is every bit as important to survival after bypass surgery as more traditional risk factors like tobacco use, obesity, and high blood pressure.”
The quality of the relationship also plays a vital role. Researchers found that, 15 years after surgery, 83 percent of happily wedded wives were still alive, versus 28 percent of women in unhappy marriages and 27 percent of unmarried women.
Building on this insight, recent research found that men largely rely on their spouse for companionship whereas women tend to have more friends outside of their relationship. This could explain why marriage often has less of an impact on a woman’s survival post-surgery than a man’s.
The benefits don’t end there, either. Married couples also experience fewer heart attacks, fewer strokes and generally live a longer life.
This doesn’t mean marriage will save you, of course. That’s just silly. A legal document couldn’t possibly determine whether you live or die. Instead, it proves just how important companionship really is.