Research from the American Heart Association has shown that marriage, especially being happily married, reduces the risk of death in people with heart disease.
A 2017 study showed that the power of love is an important factor in heart disease. Unmarried people had a 52% greater risk of heart attack if they already had some element of heart disease than married people in the same heart health state. The death rate was lower for married people than those who are divorced, widowed or who had never married.
MRI studies on the brain shows love affecting areas that lead to stress hormone reductions. And research shows that stable relationships in mid-life are a better predictor of heart health than cholesterol levels.
Indeed, a number of studies have now shown that strong social bonds and marriage may be a better heart health promoter than lowered cholesterol!
The first real indicators started came with a 2010 meta-analysis involving more than 300,000 people in 148 studies. Professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young in Utah showed that sharing problems with a partner reduces stress hormones as does physical intimacy (holding hands, hugging, cuddling). Supportive partners may also encourage better eating patterns or exercise frequency or encourage visits to the Doctor at earlier times when a cared-for partner has an illness.
People in happy marriages most definitely have lower blood pressure overall than people living on their own, and/or with little social contact. People with the strongest social ties were 50% more likely to be alive at the end of the research studies in the meta-analysis, than people with no partners. This figure is roughly the same as comparing smokers to non-smokers! Being happily married thus seems to give the same heart benefits as being a non-smoker!
However, getting married per se is not going to save you. A stressful marriage makes matters worse. No doubt about it. People in strained marriages fare worse than even single people. Dr. Arshed A. Quyyumi, co-director of the Emory Clinical Cardiovascular Research Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, the lead researcher in the 2017 study said he was very surprised by the magnitude of the benefit of being happily married
He felt the reasons went beyond ‘social support’ as other studies had shown that a happy marriage could increase a couple’s health and that it was improved by optimism, coping, and lower anxiety and depression.
In the 2017 study, happy marriages resulted in better health outcomes, with fewer serious diseases and hospitalisations. But rocky relationships may provide the worst case scenario.
- American Heart Association – https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/05/17/a-fairy-tale-ending-marriage-can-make-a-difference-to-health