Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found that people who were formerly married have a higher risk of disability or worse off, death, soon after they’ve had a heart surgery.

The report, which was published in the JAMA Surgery, said that two years after surgery, patients who were formerly married but are now separated, divorced or maybe widowed had about 40% likelihood of dying or needing help as compared to those who were married, especially when it comes to handling the most common activities.

According to the team of researchers that was led by Dr. Mark Neuman, it is very useful to try and establish whether single patients are less or more likely to need the extra help that formerly married patients need when it comes to eating, bathing or dressing following a heart surgery.

“I think many realize the importance of social determinants of health, however, very few have tried to understand how these aspects relate to functional outcomes as far as surgery is concerned”, Dr. Neuman said.

The research used data that was collected from biennial interviews involving up to 30,000 people aged 50 and above. This data was collected between 2004 and 2010 and all participants were to part with some personal information such as their marital status in addition the kind of help they needed when it comes to handling basic tasks such as getting dressed, eating, moving around, bathing or even getting in as well as out of bed.

The new study took into account data from 1,576 heart surgery patients. From this group, about 65% were married, 21% were widowed, 12% were either separated or divorced, while another 2% had never been married before. About 3% of the participants died before they could take part in another biennial interview following their heart surgery, while about 21% survived, but still needed a lot of help when it comes to executing day-to-day chores.

After two years of living following a successful heart surgery, the research found that those who happened to be married were less likely to die or require extra help as compared to single people. However, Dr. Neuman pointed out that the research was not in a position to say why married people had lower chances of dying or needing help shortly after undergoing a heart surgery.

“It is possible that this is happening because married people tend to be healthier than single people, but it’s just one of the many possible explanations”, he commented. Neuman also added that this research should help healthcare providers to look at their patients in a holistic manner, keeping in mind the homes and communities they live in, as well as look at the best ways of improving the outcomes.