Over the years, there have been a number of studies that show that marriage is good for men—that married men are generally healthier and less prone to a variety of illnesses than unmarried me. But according to a new study from Finland, it turns out that marriage is good for women too. In fact, wives and husbands are both less likely to have a heart attack than their less-legally attached counterparts of the same age. And if they do have a heart attack, married people are more likely to survive.
The researchers, from Turku University Hospital, analyzed data from more than 15,000 heart attacks (half of which were fatal) that happened over the course of 10 years. Single men and women were two-thirds more likely to have a heart attack and/or die from a heart attack than married folks.
This makes us wonder what it is about marriage that’s so protective. One explanation is that unhealthy people are less attractive as potential mates, which would make them less likely to get—or stay—married. That would skew the statistics and increase the overall death rate of the unmarried population.
Another explanation—one that the study’s researchers prefer—is that it’s the “social support” between husband and wife that gives marriage it’s almost magical life-saving qualities. The study appeared in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
This whole “social support” thing not only reduces heart attack risk, it also seems to give new meaning to the old saws about how your heart might “skip a beat” when you’re with the one you love, or that in-love couples have “two hearts that beat as one.”
Researchers at the University of California, Davis found that straight couples sitting close to each other—but not touching—had very similar breathing- and heart-rate patterns. And in most cases, it’s the woman who adjusts to her partner. Strangers sitting together didn’t adjust their heart rate breathing to each other. However, close friends often do synchronize their heartbeats when going through stressful situations.
A study done a few years ago in Denmark did an experiment where one person watched as a friend or relative walked across hot coals. The observer and the one doing the walking synched their heart beat patterns.
The UC Davis study was published in the journal Emotion (produced by the American Psychological Association). You can find more info here.