Singles who roll their eyes at friends’ weddings might want to catch the bouquet next time: New research suggests singledom could be deadly.
Single people have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke than married people, and have higher mortality overall, researchers found in a study published Tuesday in the journal Heart. Those in committed relationships rely on the support of their partners to improve health outcomes, according to the study, so marital status, then, could be an indicator of heart health.
In an analysis of 34 studies and more than 2 million participants, an international team of researchers found that never-married people are almost one-and-a-half times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, while married couples are better able to adapt to stress, as their partners provide greater emotional support and the resources to prevent or address health concerns.
Living with a partner could be life-saving: A spouse can spot symptoms earlier than someone who lives alone might, which can lead to earlier doctor visits and disease detection. In two-income households, healthy finances can mean better health care, including access to post-disease rehabilitation.
When marriages end, heart health can plummet. Divorced men and women have a heightened risk of coronary heart disease, while widowed populations are more likely to experience strokes, although women fare worse than men. Women are likely to be older when they live alone and face a greater multitude of health problems.
Partner loss and divorce often raise stress levels and inhibit people’s ability to prevent or detect illness. Upticks in stress can aggravate existing risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart rate variability. Those who live alone are also less quick to visit the doctor or treat existing health problems, while married people often promote each other’s health and hold each other accountable for staying healthy. Singles are also twice as likely to skip their medication, according to the study.
The social and physiological benefits of partnership have been found to manifest themselves in physical health. A 1995 paper said that “isolated people” were less likely to survive after suffering a heart attack because they lacked the “sense of belonging and intimacy” and self-sufficiency in addressing their ailment.
The ebbs and flows of marriages over time are reflected in health outcomes, too, studies have found. Marriages that improved over the years saw couples maintain healthier weights and lower cholesterol, but as marriages declined, couples were more likely to develop high blood pressure.