Single or unhappily married men seem to run a greater risk of dying from a stroke than those in good marriages, a new Israeli study indicates.

Study Findings

The study, which tracked more than 10,000 civil servants and municipal workers from 1963 to 1997, found that 8.4% of the single men died of strokes, compared with 7.1% of the married men. When age and known stroke risk factors, such as obesity, smoking and diabetes, were included in the analysis, single men had a 64% higher risk for fatal stroke than married men, according to a report presented at the American Stroke Association's annual stroke conference in San Antonio.

The study also asked men to evaluate the success of their marriages. The 3.6% of men who reported dissatisfaction with marriage also had a 64% higher risk of a fatal stroke, compared with those who considered their marriages to be very successful.

Possible Explanations

"Maybe summoning help in the case of suspected stroke took longer among those who were unmarried," said study author Uri Goldbourt, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Tel Aviv University. "If that were true, perhaps the probability to survive a stroke would be lower among those living alone."

Dr. Goldbourt said he had no explanation for the effect of happiness on stroke mortality. "I had not expected that unsuccessful marriage would be of this statistical importance," he said.

But it's clear that a long, happy relationship is associated with a higher likelihood of taking the recommended measures against the known stroke risk factors, said Daniel Lackland, PhD, director of graduate training at the Medical University of South Carolina, and a spokesperson for the American Stroke Association.

"If you look at something like cigarette smoking, there is better support in quitting," Dr. Lackland said. "Weight loss is so much better when two people are involved."

A good marriage means "having the support that makes you more compliant with therapy," he said. "Also, you are more likely to go see a physician if you are not feeling well."

Stroke In Women

Dr. Goldbourt said he does not know of a similar study of women. "Certainly, such a study would be of great interest," he said.

"There are some suggestions that it is the same for women," Dr. Lackland said. "If you are in a good relationship, it goes both ways. Social support is better in a good relationship."

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