Marriage reduces heart attack risk

Marriage

Being unmarried increases the risk of fatal and non-fatal heart attack in both men and women whatever their age, according to a large population-based study from Finland.

Conversely, said the study investigators, especially among middle-aged couples, being married and cohabiting are associated with "considerably better prognosis of acute cardiac events both before hospitalization and after reaching the hospital alive".

The study was based on the FINAMI myocardial infarction register data from the years 1993 to 2002. It included information on people over the age of 35 living in four geographical regions of Finland.

All fatal and non-fatal cardiac events - known as "acute cardiac syndromes", ACS - were included and cross-referred to the population database. "Our aim," said the researchers, "was to study the differences in the morbidity and prognosis of incident acute coronary syndromes according to socio-demographic characteristics (marital status and household size)."

The register recorded 15,330 ACS events over the study period of ten years, with just over half (7703) resulting in death within 28 days. Events occurred almost equally among men and women. However, the analysis also showed that the age-standardised incidences of these ACS events were approximately 5866 percent higher among unmarried men and 6065 percent higher in unmarried women, than among married men and women in all age groups.

The differences in 28-day mortality rate were even greater. These 28-day mortality rates were found to be 60168 percent higher in unmarried men and 71175 percent higher in unmarried women, than among married men and women.

Consistent with this finding, the case fatality rate of 35-64-year-old single men and women was higher than that of those living with one or more people.

According to the researchers, being unmarried or living alone is known to increase total and cardiovascular mortality and cardiovascular disease incidence. However, many of these previous studies have included only men in their analysis, with missing data on women and older age groups.

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