The best remedy for a broken heart, it seems, is a good marriage. Researchers have found that men and women who have had heart surgery live longer if they are happily wed. A satisfying relationship gives people something to live for as well as helping them lead healthier lives such as not smoking or taking more exercise, they say.
Previous studies have shown that men benefit more from marriage than women. The latest study reveals that for men, even an unhappy marriage is better than being single – those in unhappy marriages were 66 per cent more likely to survive 15 years following surgery than men who were unmarried, and more than twice as likely to survive if they were happily married.
For women the quality of the relationship is key to their survival. Those in unhappy marriages were no more likely to enjoy a long life than those who were unmarried. Happily married women, on the other hand, had a threefold greater chance of a long life.
Professor Kathleen King of the University of Rochester, New York, who led the study published in Health Psychology, said: "There is something in a good relationship that helps people stay on track."
The researchers followed 225 people who had had coronary bypass surgery. The operation, which is now routine and is carried out on tens of thousands of patients each year in the UK, involves replacing one or more of the coronary arteries which have become clogged up with fatty deposits with a blood vessel taken from the inner wall of the chest or the thigh.
The operation was once seen as a miracle cure for heart disease but it is now recognised that the replacement blood vessels are even more susceptible to clogging than the original arteries. The researchers decided to examine what factors enabled some patients to beat the odds.