Patients who are divorced, separated or widowed had an approximately 40% greater chance of dying or developing a new functional disability after a heart surgery than married patients, according to a study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
“While it has been established that the chances of survival following major surgery may be better among married versus unmarried persons, it is not known how marriage ‘marries’ with actual postoperative function,” said study co-author Mark Neuman, MD, MSCE, an assistant professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care and a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Understanding this may be useful for identifying patients who may be in need of additional support and targeted interventions aimed at improving functional recovery.”
Researchers used a database of 29,053 adults age 50 years and older in which study participants have undergone interviews every two years since 1998 about their health, functioning, medical care, and family structure.
For this study, the team analyzed data from the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 interviews and included the 1,576 subjects who reported undergoing cardiac surgery in the interval since the preceding interview and deceased participants for whom a representative reported a cardiac surgery since the last interview.
They found that at the time of baseline interview, 65% were married 12% were divorced or separated, 21% were widowed and two percent were never married. At their post-surgery interview, 19% of the married participants, 29% of the divorced or separated subjects, 39% of the widowed and 20% of those who had never been married had either died or developed a new disability.
Compared with subjects who were married at baseline, the odds for death or a new functional disability during the first two years following cardiac surgery were 40% greater among those who are divorced, separated or widowed, the researchers found.
Neuman and Werner surmise that this may related to the social supports in influencing patients’ choice of hospitals and their self-care. These findings also extend prior research suggesting postoperative survival advantages for married people, but further researcher is needed to understand and define the mechanisms that link marital status and postoperative outcomes.