Being married may improve the odds of a good recovery after surgery, a report in JAMA Surgery said.

The study included 1,567 people 50 and older who had cardiac operations — 1,026 married, 184 divorced or separated, 331 widowed and 35 never married. The researchers collected information on whether they needed help before their operations in six daily activities: dressing, walking, bathing, eating, toileting or getting in and out of bed. They interviewed them (or their survivors) two years after surgery.

About 20 percent of married patients had either died or developed a new dependency within two years of their operations. But 28.8 percent of divorced or separated people and 33.8 percent of the widowed had these outcomes.

Even after controlling for age, sex, smoking and other factors, compared with people who were married, the divorced, separated or widowed were at least 40 percent more likely to have died or acquired a new disability.

“I think this is important for patients to know about, and health systems could take a lesson from this kind of information,” said the lead author, Dr. Mark Neuman of the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s important to look at patients in their environment, including their social supports, in developing interventions that could potentially improve outcomes.”


Pre-eclampsia tied to newborn issues

Pre-eclampsia, a frequent complication of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, is associated with an increased risk for heart defects in newborns, a large study has found.

Canadian researchers studied records of all live births in hospitals in Quebec from 1989 to 2012, a total of 1,942,072 newborns. The study, in JAMA, found an overall prevalence of heart defects of 8.9 per 1,000 births. But the rate among women with pre-eclampsia was 16.7 per 1,000. Defects in the septums, the walls that separate the heart’s chambers, were the most common, but all parts of the heart were affected — the aorta, pulmonary artery, valves and ventricles. The association was present even after controlling for age of the mother, preexisting hypertension, tobacco use, diabetes, obesity and other factors.

The lead author, Dr. Nathalie Auger of the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center, said obesity is a risk factor for pre-eclampsia, but there is currently no way to prevent pre-eclampsia or heart defects.


Don’t blame it on birth order

Certain personality traits are often attributed to oldest, middle and youngest children. But a new study found that birth order itself had no effect on character, though it may slightly affect intelligence.

Researchers analyzed three ongoing collections of data including more than 20,000 people: a British study that follows people born in one particular week in 1958, a German study of private households started in 1984 and a continuing study of Americans born between 1980 and 1984.

They searched for differences in extroversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, self-reported intellect, IQ, imagination and openness to experience. They analyzed families with sisters and brothers, large and small age gaps, and different numbers of siblings. But they could find no association of birth order with any personality characteristic.

The study, in PNAS, did find evidence that older children have a slight advantage in IQ scores, but the difference was apparent only in a large sample, with little significance for any individual. “There is no such thing as a typical older, middle or younger sibling,” said lead author, Julia M. Rohrer, a grad student at the University of Leipzig.

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