Wedding Wednesday: Is marriage good for your health?

I've come across some interesting things while planning this shindig that I think are worth sharing here. Today: marriage and health.

Set aside the obvious stress of interpersonal relationships (and planning a ceremony and reception for 100+ people to celebrate them...) and it turns out that getting married is actually pretty good for you.

There's the oxytocin release of falling in love, of course, but some research shows that partnering up with someone who makes you happy could actually help you live longer. That's probably not news to you, but a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that being married correlates with better outcomes from surgery.

From a release from JAMA Surgery:

Chances of survival after major surgery may be better among married vs unmarried persons, but little is known regarding the association between marital status and postoperative function. Characterizing the association between marital status and postoperative function may be useful for counseling patients and identifying at-risk groups that may benefit from targeted interventions aimed at improving functional recovery.

This is an important caveat about correlation vs. causation, which is nice and refreshing to see after this week's drama about meat and cancer... which I might address in another post. But I found it really interesting that even though they aren't entirely sure what led to this correlation, it could be useful for recovery purposes.

Mark D. Neuman and Rachel M. Werner of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania used data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study to find this marriage connection. Participants in the University of Michigan study reported that they had undergone cardiac surgery, and some died after such surgery, which was reported by proxies, according to JAMA. At the post-surgery interview, 19 percent of married participants had either died or had worse health, compared to 29 percent of divorced or separated people, 34 percent of widowed participants and 20 percent of participants who had never been married.

Participants who were divorced, separated, or widowed had an approximately 40 percent greater odds of dying or developing a new functional disability during the first 2 years after cardiac surgery compared with the married participants.

“These findings extend prior work suggesting postoperative survival advantages for married people and may relate to the role of social supports in influencing patients' choices of hospitals and their self-care,” the authors said, adding as usual that more research is needed. You can see the study here.

Of course I hope neither my fiance nor I have to have heart surgery at any point, but heart issues run in both of our families, so it's good to know that if and when it happens, we might have a slightly better chance of recovery! As always, it'll be interesting to watch what comes out of further research.