Research News

Married women have lower risk of dying from heart disease than single women, says UK study

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 12 March 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2072
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. 1London

Women who are married or living with a partner have a similar risk of developing ischaemic heart disease to unmarried women but a substantially lower risk of dying from it, data from the Million Women cohort have shown.1

Being married has been associated with lower mortality from heart disease in men in some studies, but there has been less evidence of an association among women.

The large prospective study, published in the open access journal BMC Medicine, included 734 626 women with a mean age of 60 who had no previous heart disease, stroke, or cancer. During 8.8 years of follow-up 30 747 women were admitted to hospital with a first ischaemic heart disease event, and 2148 died with ischaemic heart disease as the underlying cause.

The risk of having an ischaemic heart disease event was similar among women who were married or living with a partner and those who were not (relative risk 0.99 (95% confidence interval 0.96 to 1.02)). But women who were married or living with a partner were 28% less likely than unmarried women (including single, widowed, and divorced women) to die from ischaemic heart disease (relative risk 0.72 (0.66 to 0.80)). This reduced risk for married women remained after adjustment for socioeconomic and lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol intake, and body mass index.

The study, by researchers from the University of Oxford, showed that a woman’s partner may encourage her to seek appropriate treatment for symptoms, take her medicine, and attend cardiac rehabilitation, and may support her in modifying her lifestyle risk factors.

The lead author of the study, Sarah Floud, said, “In this large UK cohort of middle aged women, living with a partner does not appear to affect the risk of developing heart disease after adjustment for socioeconomic, lifestyle, and other factors. However, there remains a substantial, unexplained lower risk of death from heart disease for women who are living with a partner compared with women who are not living with a partner.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2072