Could Rising Divorce Rates Up Heart Attack Risk?

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Marriage can actually help reduce the risk of heart attacks.With divorce becoming more common, it’s worth it to ask: does divorce have some health implications? A new study out of Finland has found that being unmarried increases the risk of heart attack in both men and women, whatever their age. At the same time, being married and living together are linked with positive heart-related outcomes.

The study included data on adults over 35 living in four regions of Finland. All fatal and non-fatal cardiac events were studied. There were 15,330 events over 10 years, with just about half of them resulting in death within 28 days. The analysis also showed that the incidences of these cardiac events were 58%–66% higher among unmarried men and 60%–65% higher in unmarried women.

Marriage also seemed to help keep people alive. The 28-day mortality rates were between 60% and 168% higher in unmarried men, and 70%–175% higher in unmarried women. The mortality rate was, for example, 866 deaths per 100,000 older adults in married men—a figure that rose to 1,792 per 100,000 in unmarried men. The corresponding figures for women were 247 and 493 per 100,000 people between 65 and 74 years of age.

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We’ve known that being unmarried or living alone unfortunately increases the risk of heart-related death and heart disease. Yet most studies haven’t had such a vantage point on both sexes as this one. Here is why all this might be the case:

• It is possible that people with poor health status are more prone to staying unmarried or getting divorced.

• Married people may be better off financially, have better health habits, and enjoy higher levels of social support.

• Married people responded better to hospital treatment when a cardiac event did strike, perhaps because there was someone close by to call for help.

• Married people had better outcomes after discharge, possibly because those who live alone are less likely to stick to a treatment path over the long term.

It doesn’t seem fair, but it is the truth. And it also extends to other illnesses, such as dementia. It comes down to this: seek out social support, stay active with others, and you will live longer and healthier.

Sources for Today’s Articles:
Could Rising Divorce Rates Up Heart Attack Risk?
Lammintausta, A., et al., “Prognosis of acute coronary events is worse in patients living alone: the FINAMI myocardial infarction register,” European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, first published online January 30, 2013.

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