A large study in Finland has shown that being unmarried may be bad for your health. Unmarried men and women of any age have a higher risk of fatal and nonfatal heart attacks than married people.
Conversely, researchers found the prognoses after a heart attack are significantly improved for married and cohabiting people, especially middle-aged couples.
The study, published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, aims to “study the differences in the morbidity and prognosis of incident acute coronary syndromes according to socio-demographic characteristics (marital status and household size),” said the authors.
The research looked at 15,330 people who had heart attacks over a period of 10 years, of these people, 7,700 died within 28 days. The results showed unmarried men were 58-66% more likely to suffer a heart attack than married men. Unmarried women had a 60-65% higher risk.
The difference in the risk of dying from a heart attack was even more acute between the two groups. For single men, the risk of dying within 28 days of a heart attack was 60% to 168% higher than for married men; for single women, the risk of death due to heart attack was 71% to 175% higher than for married women.
The authors of the study suggest several reasons as to why being married or cohabiting can affect our health in this way:
- Single people and those who get divorced may be prone to ill health.
- Married people may be financially better off, have a bigger support network and have better health habits all of which are beneficial to health.
- Married people may also be more likely to call an ambulance sooner.
- Married couples receive better care in hospital and after discharge, noted the researchers.
This study looks at men and women aged over 35 years old, however, the researchers do say none of these reasons fully explain the differences seen between married and unmarried couples and further research is needed. According to other studies, being unmarried increases your risk of suffering and dying from a heart attack. However these previous studies have only looked at men, not women or older age groups.