So how’s your marriage? A new study recommends you do your best to make it work as there are several health related benefits that stem from a happy union aside from the emotional rewards. However, the bond does not affect both genders the same and the study from the American Psychological Association goes into some detail especially as it pertains to heart ailments. Of interest is the discovery that the advantages of marriage are different for men and women.

In fact, Harry Reis, a coauthor of the study and professor of psychology comments that:

“…the effects of marital satisfaction are every bit as important to survival after bypass surgery as more traditional risk factors like tobacco use, obesity, and high blood pressure. Wives need to feel satisfied in their relationships to reap a health dividend, but the payoff for marital bliss is even greater for women than for men.”

In men, marriage appears to be linked to improved survival rates with the more satisfying the marriage, the higher the rate of survival. Researchers also found that happily married men who undergo coronary bypass surgery are more than three times as likely to be alive 15 years later as their unmarried counterparts.

The quality of the relationship is even more important in women. An unhappy marriage does not provide a survival bonus yet satisfying relationships increase a woman’s survival rate almost fourfold, the study found.

Kathleen King, professor emeriti from the School of Nursing at the University of Rochester and lead author on the paper continues:

“There is something in a good relationship that helps people stay on track. Coronary bypass surgery was once seen as a miracle cure for heart disease. But now we know that for most patients, grafts are a temporary patch, even more susceptible to clogging and disease than native arteries. So, it’s important to look at the conditions that allow some patients to beat the odds including relationships.”

King believes aggressive medical care in the form of bypass surgery rarely leads to life-changing behavior.

For the study, researchers tracked 225 people who had bypass surgery between 1987 and 1990. They asked married participants to rate their relationship satisfaction one year after surgery.

The study adjusted for age, sex, education, depressed mood, tobacco use, and other factors known to affect survival rates for cardiovascular disease. Fifteen years after surgery, 83% of happily wedded wives were still alive, versus 28% of women in unhappy marriages and 27% of unmarried women.

The survival rate for contented husbands was also 83%, but even the not-so-happily married fared well. Men in less-than-satisfying unions enjoyed a survival rate of 60%, significantly better than the 36% rate for unmarried men.

So what’s the secret? Supportive spouses most likely help by encouraging healthy behavior, like increased exercise or smoking cessation, which are critical to long-term survival from heart disease. These are qualities of the relationship that likely existed before bypass surgery, and continued afterward.

The study has some physiological basis as earlier research discovered people with lower hostility in their marriages have less of the kind of inflammation that is linked to heart disease. Researchers believe this association may help explain why people in this study benefited from satisfying marriages.

Written by Sy Kraft