Marriage plays a big factor when it comes to long-term survival in the recovery process of heart bypass surgery, a study has shown.

The study published in the August 22 issue of the Journal Health Psychology ,found that happily married couples are more than three times likely than single people to be alive 15-years after coronary bypass surgery.

The effect of marital satisfaction is every bit as important to survival after bypass surgery as more traditional risk factors like tobacco use, obesity, and high blood pressure, said coauthor Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

According to the study the benefits of marital status plays out differently according to the sex. For men, marriage in general is linked to higher survival rates and the more satisfying the marriage, the higher the survival rate.

For women, the quality of the relationship has greater importance. Unhappy marriages bear almost no benefits for the survival of women; where as satisfying marriages increase their survival rate almost four times.

Wives need to feel satisfied in their relationships to reap a health dividend, explains Reis. But the payoff for marital bliss is even greater for women than for men.

Researchers who participated in the study tracked 225 people who had bypass surgery between 1987-1990. Married participants were asked to rate their relationship satisfaction one year after the surgery, and factors such as age, sex, depression and tobacco use known to affect survival rates after the surgery were taken into consideration.

15 years after the surgery, 83 percent of happily wedded wives were still alive, whereas for unmarried women it was 27 per cent and for those unhappy in their marriages it was 28 per cent. The survival rate for husbands was also 83 percent, but men in unsatisfying marriages also had a high survival rate of 60 percent, whereas unmarried men had a survival rate of 36 percent.

Coronary bypass surgery was once seen as a miracle cure for heart disease, said Kathleen King, professor emerita from the School of Nursing at Rochester University. But now we know that for most patients, grafts are a temporary patch, even more susceptible to clogging and disease than native arteries. So, it's important to look at the conditions that allow some patients to beat the odds.