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Study finds married women are less likely to die from heart disease than unmarried women

If you are a married woman or living with a partner you have the same risk as an unmarried woman of developing heart disease, but you are 28% less likely to die from it, according to research published in open access journal BMC Medicine.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. There have been few large scale studies of marital status and heart disease risk in women.

Researchers from the University of Oxford analysed data collected for a large UK study of women's health, the Million Women Study. This BMC Medicine study included 730,000 women who were on average 60 years old.

The researchers found that approximately 30,000 developed and 2,000 died from heart disease over a nine year period.

When analysing these figures the researchers showed that married women or those living with a partner had the same risk of developing heart disease as unmarried women (this included single, widowed and divorced women), but the chance of dying from it was 28% lower.

The researchers took many factors into account that could have influenced the results, such as age, socio-economic status and lifestyle, but the lower risk of death from heart disease remained. The reasons for this are not known. The authors suggest that one reason could be that the spouses of married women may encourage them to seek early medical treatment for symptoms, but there may be other explanations. Other studies have shown that partners tend to encourage their spouses to take medication and make changes in unhealthy lifestyles.

Lead author on the study, Sarah Floud, says: "Married women were no less likely to develop heart disease than women who were not married, but they were less likely to die from it. This means that, over 30 years, about 3 in 100 married women would die from heart disease compared to about 4 in 100 women who are not married or living with a partner."


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Notes to Editor

1. Marital status and ischaemic heart disease incidence and mortality in women: a large prospective study
Sarah Floud, Angela Balkwill, Dexter Canoy, F. Lucy Wright, Gillian K Reeves, Jane Green, Valerie Beral and Benjamin J Cairns
BMC Medicine 2014, 12:42

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