A study has found being in a happy marriage helps heart attack patients recover faster.
Researchers at Yale University have discovered that in contrast, a stressful marriage is linked to the slower recovery of heart patients.
According to the British Heart Foundation, heart and circulatory diseases cause a quarter of all deaths in the UK. It kills 160,000 and causes 100,000 hospital admissions for heart attacks each year.
For the study, the experts looked at 1,593 married people with an average age of 47 who were treated for a heart attack, at 103 hospitals across the United States.
The participants’ marriages were reportedly evaluated using a questionnaire, called the Stockholm Marital Stress Scale.
Participants were asked if they have a satisfactory sex life, are experiencing any “serious relationship problems” and if their spouse is their “closest confidant”.
The patients were divided into three groups on the basis of how loving, happy, and stress-free their marriages were.
The health of the patients and recovery was closely monitored by doctors for 12 months after their heart attack.
It was found that patients with the most unhappy marriages were 67% more likely to report chest pains in comparison to those who had little or no marital stress.
Additionally, those patients who scored highest on the marital stress scale were found to be 50% more likely to get readmitted to the hospital for any reason over the next year.
Almost four in ten women reported severe marital stress, in contrast to three in ten men.
The study reportedly said this was “consistent with previous studies that show a greater burden of marital stress on the health of women”.
Women were found to be more affected by unhappy marriages.
Experts are of the opinion that this is because women are more likely to report severe marital stress than men which may explain the significant gender gap, meaning women are more likely to die from heart attacks.
Experts believe a happy marriage can help to speed up recovery because loving spouses encourage the taking of medicine, exercise, and cutting down on unhealthy habits, which help to keep the heart strong, The Times explains.
While on the other hand, unhappy marriages cause the release of increased levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which in turn increases heart rate and blood pressure, thereby potentially causing heart attacks.
The research also found that a happy marriage was linked to better overall physical and mental health.
Cenjing Zhu, lead author of the study is reported to have said: “Stress experienced in one’s everyday life, such as marital stress, may impact young adults’ recovery after a heart attack.”
The study which was presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago, called for doctors to take into account whether patients were in a happy marriage to help inform their decisions on treatment.
Zhu adds, “Healthcare professionals need to be aware of personal factors that may contribute to cardiac recovery and focus on guiding patients to resources that help manage and reduce their stress levels.
“Future efforts should consider screening patients for everyday stress during follow-up appointments to help better identify people at high risk for low recovery or additional hospitalisation”.
Professor Nieca Goldberg, American Heart Association expert volunteer is quoted as saying, “This study highlights the importance of evaluating the mental health of cardiac patients and is consistent with previous studies that show a greater burden of marital stress on the health of women.
“A comprehensive approach to the care of cardiac patients that includes physical and mental health may transform the care of cardiac patients from the care of one organ to a patient’s global health.
“The health care system should support the clinical assessment of both physical and mental health as that may lead to better outcomes and healthier lives for our patients,” she concludes.