Health News for Senior Citizens

Health News for Seniors

Married older adults more likely to survive, thrive after cardiac surgery

Known that marrieds survive surgery more often, now we know they do better afterwards, too

doctor congratulates wife on recoveryOct. 28, 2015 - New research involving 1,500 older adults has found that being married is a predictor of survival and functional recovery after heart surgery.

Those in the study who were divorced, separated, or widowed were more likely to have died or develop a new functional disability after the surgery compared with the married participants, according to the study published online by JAMA Surgery.

Chances of survival after major surgery may be better among married vs unmarried persons, but little has been known regarding the association between marital status and postoperative function, according to the researchers.


They pursued the study because they concluded characterizing the association between marital status and postoperative function could be useful for counseling patients and identifying at-risk groups that may benefit from targeted interventions aimed at improving functional recovery.

Mark D. Neuman, M.D., M.Sc., and Rachel M. Werner, M.D., Ph.D., of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia used data from the University of Michigan Health  and  Retirement Study, which has enrolled 29,053 adults 50 years of age or older since 1998.

The study participants undergo interviews every 2 years regarding health, functioning, medical care, and family structure. The sample for this analysis included surviving participants who reported having undergone cardiac surgery in the interval since the preceding interview and deceased participants for whom proxies reported a cardiac surgery since the last interview.

The study included 1,576 participants; at the time of study entry, 65 percent were married, 12 percent were divorced or separated, 21 percent were widowed, and 2 percent were never married.

Married participants were more likely to be male and to demonstrate lower levels of other illnesses and disability before surgery.

At the postsurgery interview, 19 percent of married participants, 29 percent of divorced or separated individuals, 34 percent of widowed participants, and 20 percent of participants who had never been married had either died or developed a new disability (unable to perform independently an activity of daily living such as dressing, walking, eating).

Marital status was significantly associated with death or a new functional disability. Participants who were divorced, separated, or widowed had an approximately 40 percent greater odds of dying or developing a new functional disability during the first 2 years after cardiac surgery compared with the married participants.

“These findings extend prior work suggesting postoperative survival advantages for married people and may relate to the role of social supports in influencing patients’ choices of hospitals and their self-care,” the authors write.

They add that their findings suggest “that marital status is a predictor of survival and functional recovery after cardiac surgery. Further research is needed to define the mechanisms linking marital status and postoperative outcomes.”

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

(JAMA Surgery. Published online October 28, 2015)


Related Health News from Senior Journal Archives

Marriage Reduces Risk of Heart Attack in Both Men and Women and of All Ages

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