The study, conducted by a team of academics from institutions including Aston Medical School and the University of East Anglia, revealed that married people were 14% less likely to die after a heart attack than single people.
They were also, on average, likely to spend two fewer days in hospital than single people. Being discharged from hospital sooner could be financially beneficial to the NHS – the average cost per day for a patient to stay on a surgical ward is up to £400 and it is estimated that reducing the length of stays in cardiology alone could save the NHS up to £9.8m a year.
Researchers studied data from over 25,000 patients diagnosed with a heart attack between January 2000 and March 2013. The investigation, performed by the Algorithm for Comorbidity, Associations, Length of stay and Mortality (ACALM) Study Unit, utilised Hospital Episode Statistics patient information collected from hospitals in the north of England.
While it is not completely clear why married people are more likely to survive a heart attack, the team believe the findings emphasise the importance of physical and emotional support after the event. They also stressed that the results indicate the need for doctors to consider the psychosocial effects of a heart attack as a risk factor when treating and managing the discharge of a patient.
Dr Rahul Potluri, Clinical Lecturer at Aston Medical School and the Founder of ACALM Study Unit, said: “Our approach has already helped us perform research investigating the relationship between mental and physical health, and health services research particularly looking at the weekend effect. Utilising and analysing large data sets is essential to improve our understanding of medical conditions and to improve management options for patients.
“By looking at how large numbers of heart attack patients do over a longer period of time in future research, we may be able to see additional psychosocial benefits of marriage, which can be targeted to further guide patient care.”
Dr Mike Knpaton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: “A heart attack can have both devastating physical and psyschological effects – most of which are hidden from the outside world. These findings suggest the support offered by spouse can have a beneficial effect on heart attack survivors, perhaps helping to minimise the impact of a heart attack.
“When you have a heart attack, whether you’re married or not, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Enrolling on a cardiac rehabilitation course, for example, will help you to recover physically, psychologically, and also help you to meet people with similar experiences, who know what you’ve been through.”
There are 188,000 hospital episodes attribute to heart attack in the UK each year, which is around one every three minutes. Improvements in diagnosis and treatment driven by research mean that around seven out of ten people survive a heart attack.
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Notes to Editors
Abstract of 'The Impact of Marital Status on Mortality and Length of Stay in Patients Admited with Myocardial Infarction' available here.
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