WEDNESDAY, Dec. 14, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Stroke patients may have better odds of surviving if they’re in a long-term stable marriage, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that among more than 2,300 stroke sufferers, those who’d been “continuously” married had a better chance of surviving — versus both lifelong singles and people who’d been divorced or widowed.
The long-term marrieds’ outlook was better even compared to people who’d gotten remarried after divorcing or losing a spouse.
The reasons for the findings aren’t completely clear, and the study doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship. But researchers said the study highlights the potential importance of “social support” in stroke recovery.
“This implies that the support of a lifelong partner has benefits,” said Dr. Ralph Sacco, a professor of neurology at the University of Miami and a past president of the American Heart Association.
A spouse can give emotional support, he said, as well as help with day-to-day basics — such as eating a healthy diet and remembering to take medications.
“People sometimes consider it ‘nagging,’ but it can help,” said Sacco, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“What we don’t know,” he added, “is whether other forms of social support might have similar benefits.”
In a previous study, Sacco and his colleagues did find that older stroke patients who had friends generally fared better than those who were socially isolated.
But it’s not clear whether friendships directly aided people’s stroke recovery. And no one knows whether unmarried stroke patients would live longer if they joined a support group, for example.
Those are important questions, according to Matthew Dupre, one of the researchers on the new study.
It’s known that “social support” can help people stick with their medication regimens or change unhealthy habits, said Dupre, an associate professor of community and family medicine at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
So it’s possible that unmarried stroke patients could benefit from resources that connect them with other people, according to Dupre.
“More research is needed, though, to know the full implications of our findings, and to identify possible avenues of intervention,” he said.
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