(Australian Associated Press)
Cancer patients live longer if they are married, new research suggests.
The rate of death was 27 per cent higher among unmarried men and 19 per cent higher among unmarried women compared with those who had tied the knot.
The study, published in the journal CANCER, analysed information on almost 800,000 Californians who were diagnosed in 2000 to 2009 with invasive cancer and were followed through 2012.
The patterns were minimally explained by greater economic resources among married patients, including having private health insurance and living in higher socioeconomic status neighbourhoods.
They found white cancer patients benefited the most from being married while Hispanics and Asian Pacific Islanders benefited less.
“While other studies have found similar protective effects associated with being married, ours is the first in a large population-based setting to assess the extent to which economic resources explain these protective effects,” said lead researcher Dr Scarlett Lin Gomez of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California.
“Our study provides evidence for social support as a key driver.”
Health professionals treating unmarried cancer patients should ask if there is someone within their social network available to help them physically and emotionally, the researchers suggest.
Given the rising numbers of unmarried people and the growing ageing population, the findings have important public health implications.
“Research is needed to understand the specific reasons behind these associations so that future unmarried patients can receive interventions to increase their chances of survival,” said researcher Dr Maria Elena Martinez of the University of California.