Marriage Brings a Ring… and a Kidney?

People who get married may be more likely to receive a kidney transplant when they need one according to a new report published in the American Journal of Transplantation.

"This study really demonstrates how important the ‘low-tech' things in life can be," said Dr. Lynda Szczech, President of the National Kidney Foundation. "As medicine works hard to improve the transplantation process and anti-rejection medications, people cannot forget the power that they have to really impact their own health and the health of their loved ones."

Researchers found that people with kidney failure who were married or divorced were more than 50 percent as likely to be placed on a waitlist for a new kidney as never-married people. Those who were married were also 28 percent more likely to receive the organ, compared to single people on the waitlist.

Many people on the waitlist for a new kidney are on dialysis so they need to follow a comprehensive diet and medication regimen along with frequent travel to medical appointments. A partner can help with the details and travel, keeping them healthier overall and making them eligible to be placed on the waitlist and ready to receive a kidney when it becomes available.

Spouses may also be more apt to donate a kidney to their loved ones. And if one spouse is not a match for the other, they can enter into a kidney exchange, where kidney recipients essentially swap kidneys from willing donors. While medically eligible to donate, each donor has an incompatible blood type or positive cross match test with his or her intended recipient. By agreeing to give kidneys to unknown but compatible recipients, the donors can enable a chain of transplants when previously no transplant would have been possible.