Lonely hearts are bad for your health

Your spouse might be a pain in the neck, but they’re good for your heart. Researchers have confirmed in women what has already been established in men: married people and those with long-term partners are less likely to die of heart disease.

The latest numbers, by researchers at Oxford University and published in BMC Medicine, are derived from a large prospective study, the Million Women Study, that has followed the health outcomes of over 700,000 British women since 1996. Women who were married or living with a partner had a similar risk of developing heart disease compared to women who did not live with a partner, but their risk of dying from heart disease was an average 28% lower.

Although the investigators also assessed other lifestyle and socioeconomic factors like smoking and household income, the effect of being ‘partnered’ seemed to transcend these other variables. This study is the first of its kind in women, but several investigations have established the same effect in men: married men are no less likely to develop heart disease, but they are less likely to die from it. It still remains unclear how exactly marriage changes this outcome. There are practical considerations—a partner can remind you to take your pills, get to doctor appointments or stick to your diet—as well as more intangible factors like emotional support to consider. 

(Source: BMC Medicine, 2014; 12 (1): 42.)

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