Yes, you read that right. According to CBS News, marriage is your Kevlar against cancer…or so to speak. A study conducted by author Scarlett Lin Gomez of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, results showed that married cancer patients – well, patients in long-term relationships, really – had a higher chance of survival than single patients. Mind you, the study point at a relationship between marriage and prognosis; that is not to say it relates to the cause-effect.
The study found that single men with cancer had a 27% increased death rate than married men, and single women with cancer had a 19% increased death rate than married women. Another study conducted 10 to 15 years ago came out with similar results. In order to figure out the reason behind this shocking different, doctors looked at the financial factors that one gains in marriage. The health insurance and higher socioeconomic status neighborhoods that married people benefit from seemed to have very small impact on the results. In another attempt, the study observed around 800,000 adults in California who had cancer between 2000 and 2009, then followed up with them till 2012. This study took into account the benefit of combined income and health insurance that married people had the benefit of. And yet again, this financial factor seemed to have little effect.
Hence, just like the prior studies a decade ago, the results found were pointing more and more towards the actual love and emotional bond that spouses share. Spouses are the driving force when it comes to visiting the doctor often, taking medication properly, and receiving nourishing meals. Not to mention that such a partner played a great role in easing off the tremendous stress and fear that a cancer patient feels. It’s the helping caregiver that improves a cancer patient’s survival chances.
This is not to say that single people are doomed! But the study shows that social support is vital for cancer patients, and hence one should look for this among family and friends. It also shows doctors that the psychosocial resources should also be considered when treating a cancer patient as they have quite the impact when combined with the proper physical treatment.
These findings, however, are by no means unique to cancer. Several studies have shown the health benefits of living in a sort of deep and meaningful relationship as it increases one’s quality of life all over!
However, these findings differed when studying different racial and ethnic groups. According to a companion study to the previous one, whites seemed to benefit more of the marriage bond, compared to Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Also, US born cancer patients among the latter groups seemed to enjoy the benefits more than the native born ones; the study suspects this may have to do with a better understanding of the US health care system.