Marital status contributes to better recovery after heart operations, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania revealed.

Experts examined a data based from a research by the University of Michigan and found that married patients who underwent heart surgery may recover better than patients who are separated, divorced, or widowed.

In a study issued in the journal JAMA Surgery, researchers examined data regarding more than 29,000 patients aged 50 years old and above who had been enrolled at the university's Health and Retirement Study since 1998.

Aside from the data provided, researchers assessed more than 1,500 men and women. The respondents were interviewed every two years to monitor their health and family situation. Patients who survived a heart surgery prior to the study were included, as well as the proxies for deceased patients.

Of these participants, 2 percent were never married, 12 percent were separated or divorced, 21 percent were widowed and 65 percent were currently married. Male patients who were married mostly showed lesser levels of disability and other illnesses before the operation.

The interview after the surgery revealed that 19 percent of married participants, 20 percent of participants who had never been married, 29 percent of divorced or separated individuals and 34 percent of widowed participants had developed a new illness or died.

The study also showed that patients who were widowed, divorced or separated were 40 percent more at risk of developing a new disability or dying during the first two years of recovery compared to patients who were married.

Study authors Dr. Mark D. Neuman and Rachel M. Werner said that the findings only extend previous research from the University of Michigan which suggests that the chances of recovery of married people is connected to social supports that surround them and influence their choices of self-care and hospital care.

However, one of the study's limitations is that the type of heart surgery was never distinguished, and that this study did not show any cause-and-effect relationship.

Neuman and Werner speculate that because married couples have their spouses emotionally supporting and assisting them, it may have been the key to their recovery.

The researchers believe that further study should be done in order to find the cause-and-effect relationship between marital status and patient recovery.

Meanwhile, the research on marital status and health conducted by Hiu (Cathy) Liu from the University of Michigan is consistent with Neuman and Werner's study.

"The marriage link to health outcomes really depends on the quality of the marriage. A good quality of marriage provides support, care and assistance, which are good for health. A bad quality of marriage increases exposure to conflict and stress, which would hurt health," added Liu.

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