BMJ 2010; 341 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c4223 (Published 11 August 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c4223

Being unmarried is a risk factor for many diseases and premature death for both sexes. This is further borne out by a study of sepsis in Chest (2010;137:1289-96, doi:10.1378/chest.09-2661). Being admitted to hospital for sepsis is more common among single, widowed, and legally separated individuals, independent of other demographic factors. Single and divorced men and single women experience greatest risk of death in hospital following sepsis. The underlying, potentially modifiable, mechanisms linking marital status to critical illness have yet to be characterised.

The perceptions of illness—especially among critically ill patients and their families—depend on a number of factors, such as race, faith, and status of quality of life before the current illness. In the intensive care unit it is more likely to be the relatives or surrogates who have to make decisions about end of life, and clear communication is key. “Making sense” of illness needs cognitive and emotional beliefs and these include the perceived results of illness, the emotional reaction to the illness, and beliefs about perceived control (Chest 2010;138:59-67 doi: …

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