Feb. 24, 2010 (San Antonio) -- Get married! Be happy! Single and unhappily
married men are at increased risk of dying from stroke, suggests a study of
more than 10,000 men.
After taking into account other stroke risk factors, men who were single in
the 1960s were 64% more likely to suffer a fatal stroke over the next three
decades than their married counterparts, the study shows.
The risk of fatal stroke was also 64% higher in men who reported
dissatisfaction with their marriages than in men who rated their marriages as
successful, says Uri Goldbourt, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and preventive
medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel.
That figure is comparable to the risk of fatal stroke faced by men with
diabetes, Goldbourt tells WebMD.
He presented the study at the American Stroke Association's (ASA)
International Stroke Conference 2010.
The findings are consistent with a wealth of information suggesting that the
support of a spouse can improve one's health, says Daniel Lackland, DrPH,
professor of epidemiology and neuroscience at the Medical University of South
Carolina in Charleston.
"People with partners are more likely to go to the doctor and take their
medication. They're more likely to eat healthy meals," he tells WebMD.
Also, a spouse can recognize unusual symptoms quickly, leading to prompt
treatment, which lowers the odds that a stroke will be fatal, Lackland
The findings are bolstered by the fact that men who were satisfied with
their marriages were less likely to die from stroke than unhappily married men,
While women weren't studied, Lackland suspects the findings apply to them,
too. "Spousal support works both ways," he says.
Marital Status Affects Stroke Risk
The study involved 10,059 men who participated in the Israeli Ischemic Heart
Disease Study in 1963. Using the national death registry and other records,
researchers tracked the fate of the men through 1997.
A total of 8.4% of men who were single in 1963 -- whether never married,
divorced, or widowed -- died of stroke in the following 34 years. That compares
with 7.1% of the married men.
The statistical analysis took into account socioeconomic status and major
stroke risk factors such as obesity, blood pressure, and smoking. It also took
into account whether the men had diabetes and heart disease when they entered
the study, Goldbourt says.
The research has limitations, including a lack of data on whether the men's
marital status changed and their medical treatment over the years, he says. "It
generates some interesting hypotheses about marriage, stress, and [brain]
disease" worthy of further study.
Goldbourt and colleagues are already exploring the link in other analyses,
using data collected on the same men. In one study, as yet unpublished, they
found that the younger a man was when a parent died, the greater his risk of
developing dementia over the next three decades.