An American study has linked marriage to higher survival rates in cancer patients. Contrary to popular belief, a couple’s socio-economic status and financial resources were found to have little impact on recovery. However, care, understanding, and physical and emotional support are thought to play a key role in boosting survival rates.

Having someone at their side while battling the disease can improve the chances of survival for cancer patients, a study from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California has found. In fact, having someone there to provide care and support can help cancer patients combat the disease.

Having the care and support of a spouse can help cancer patients beat the disease.
Having the care and support of a spouse can help cancer patients beat the disease.

While this may seem like a foregone conclusion to some, the findings, published in the journal Cancer, could be worrying for single cancer patients living alone. Death rates were found to be 27% higher among unmarried men and 19% higher among unmarried women.

Dr Scarlett Lin Gomez and her team studied 800,000 people diagnosed with cancer between 2000 and 2009. They found that financial resources had little impact on patients’ survival. However, having someone to take them to medical appointments, to cook healthy meals, to remind them to take medication, and to offer long-term love and support improved patients’ health and helped take some of the stress out of the situation.

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As a result of their findings, the scientists underline just how important it is for patients living alone to call on friends or family to help them through their cancer treatment. No one is suggesting they find a husband or wife for the occasion, but bolstering social connections and supportive relationships — with family, for example — can be beneficial both for practical assistance and emotional care and support.

The researchers also point out that long-term married life has been found to improve health and quality of life in general. Life expectancy for seniors growing old in a couple is higher than for those living alone.

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