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by the American Psychological Association

Any Roommate Is Not Better Than None,
But a Having a Roommate Who Has Already Had Similar Surgery Is Best


For some people facing coronary bypass surgery, the prospect of having to share a hospital room might fill them with as much fear and loathing as the surgery itself. But a new study in the November edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), found that bypass surgery patients who shared a room with another cardiac patient -- especially one who had already had the same surgery --were less anxious, more ambulatory after surgery and were released from the hospital sooner than those who had had either a roommate with a different medical condition or no roommate at all.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego and San Francisco and California State University, San Marcos studied 84 men who underwent first-time, nonemergency coronary-bypass surgery at the San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The patients ranged in age from 41 to 70 and were treated by the same hospital staff. Seventy-four of the patients were assigned to share a room with another male patient who had either undergone the same operation or was going to have it, or who had or was waiting to have a different operation. Ten others were assigned to rooms without roommates.

The night before their surgery, the patients filled out a preoperative questionnaire designed to assess their level of anxiety and, for those with roommates, to find out about their interactions. After surgery, the patients were asked on three consecutive days how much walking they had done. Some patients were also asked to wear a small device that recorded their movements during waking hours. The researchers also noted how many days elapsed before each patient left the surgical intensive care unit and how many days elapsed before they left the hospital.

In terms of health outcomes, the "best" scenario appeared to be having a roommate who had already undergone a similar operation; the lengths of stay for those in that circumstance were 25 percent shorter than for those assigned to the "worst" combination -- having a preoperative, noncardiac roommate. Those who had roomates who were postoperative and noncardiac, or roommates who were preoperative and cardiac and those with no roommates fell somewhere in between.

Those without roommates did not differ reliably from the other patients in terms of preoperative anxiety, but their levels of postoperative ambulation were comparable to those assigned a noncardiac roommate and lower than those with a cardiac roommate. "More interesting," the authors write, "the average length of stay for the no-roommate group was not significantly longer than that of patients assigned to roommates who were postoperative or noncardiac but was significantly longer than that of patients assigned a roommate who was postoperative or cardiac." In other words, the authors conclude, while sharing a hospital room with someone with similar surgical problem or who has already had their surgery appears to be beneficial (in terms of reducing lengths of stay), sharing a room with someone with a different surgical problem or who has not yet had the surgery does not appear to be harmful.

Article: Social Comparison and Affiliation Under Threat: Effects on Recovery From Major Surgery by James A. Kulik, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, Heike I.M. Mahler, Ph.D., California State University, San Marcos, and University of California, San Diego, and Philip J. Moore, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 71, No. 5.



The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.


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