Married couples often vow “in sickness and in health” to one another. New science from the Dana-Farber Cancer institute suggests this vow can indeed help keep married couples healthy.
Researchers led by Ayal Aizer culled data from over 700,000 patients in the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program. These patients were afflicted with the ten deadliest cancers deaths in America. To ensure a level playing field, the data also took into consideration the age, sex and socioeconomic background of each patient.
After the numbers were crunched, Aizer’s team unearthed a fascinating fact: unmarried cancer patients were 17 percent more likely to have cancers which have spread beyond their point of origin. Additionally, the unmarried were 53 percent less likely to get the proper treatment for their specific cancer.
The data strongly suggests those in happy, supportive marriages survive cancer at much better rates than those who do not.
The research team stresses that these results come not from marriage itself, but rather from the loving, supportive environment which a healthy marriage creates. Unwed peoples in the study achieved similar results when surrounded by devoted friends. Patients with spouses and strong friendships often have visitors during initial doctor visits and treatments, creating a positive feedback loop which encourages the patient to complete care. Those without support groups can discontinue care, lowering survival rates and quality of life.
Aizer, in a statement made to Science Codex, strongly endorses the study’s results. “Our data suggests that marriage can have a significant health impact for patients with cancer… Social support from spouses is what’s driving the striking improvement in survival.”
The next time you’re invited to a wedding, take special note of the vows. Promising to love one another through “sickness and health” aren’t just words any longer; they’re scientific fact.