Men who never “tie the knot” are more than twice as likely to die within about five years after a heart failure diagnosis compared to men who are or were previously married and women of any marital status, a new study found.
The American College of Cardiology announced the new research on Thursday, which involved the study of 6,800 American adults between 45-84 years old. Researchers compared the 94 study participants with heart failure at year ten of the study and compared survival rates from the time of heart failure diagnosis by gender and marital status over an average follow-up period of 4.7 years. Researchers adjusted for age to account for higher death rates among older people and for mood status to account for the known impact of depression and mood disorders on heart failure.
The college said of the study’s results:
According to the results, men who had never been married were more than twice as likely to die within approximately five years of diagnosis compared with women of any marital status. Lifelong bachelors were about 2.2 times more likely to die than men who were married, but men who were widowed, divorced or separated did not have an increased risk of death compared with married men. Marital status was not a significant predictor of death among women.
The college said the study offers new evidence that a person’s sex and marital status can “influence their heart disease risk and prognosis.”
“There is a relationship between a person’s relationship status and their clinical prognosis [with heart failure], and it’s important to figure out why that is,” said Katarina Leyba, MD, a resident physician at the University of Colorado and the study’s lead author.
“As our population is getting older and living longer, it’s imperative to determine how to best support the population through the aging process, and that might not be as easy as taking a pill,” Leyba added. “We need to take a personalized and holistic approach to supporting patients, especially with a chronic disease process like heart failure.”
Researchers said the reasons behind the relationship between a man’s marital status and survival after heart failure warrant further study. Researchers believe potential drivers could include “social interaction or isolation, which can play an important role in mood and overall health; access to caregiver support for help with home health monitoring, medication adherence and transportation to medical appointments; or differences in health behaviors such as diet, exercise and alcohol intake.”
Researchers did note that different factors likely play a role for different people, but doctors might be able to give more personalized health managing strategies if they are aware of the patient’s situation at home.
“As clinicians, we need to think about our patients not just in terms of their medical risk factors, but also the context of their life,” Leyba said.