Posted on Apr 24, 2019, 7 p.m.
As it turns out that age old saying of “happy wife, happy life” was on the right track, as a new study shows having a happy spouse is linked to greater longevity, as published in the journal Psychological Science.
Spouse satisfaction in life predicted a person’s lifespan even more that it did their own overall contentment, according to the researchers. “The data show that spousal life satisfaction was associated with mortality, regardless of individuals’ socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, or their physical health status,” says Olga Stavrova of the Tilburg University.
Those who are generally unhappier are more likely to lead a less healthy lifestyle, when one spouse is mired in bad habit the other’s lifestyle tends to be dragged down as a result; having a more active spouse will likely push the other to be more active if not as active.
Data was analyzed from 4,400 couples aged 50+ from across the USA who participated in an 8 year National Institute of Aging survey wherein the couples reported life satisfaction and factors linked to lifespan, overall health and other demographic information. 16% of the participants had died by the study endpoint, most of which were older men with lower incomes and education, were less physically active, and in poorer overall health; deceased participants were found to have lower life satisfaction, lower relationship satisfaction, and a partner with lower life satisfaction; their spouses were more likely to have also died.
“The findings underscore the role of individuals’ immediate social environment in their health outcomes. Most importantly, it has the potential to extend our understanding of what makes up individuals’ ‘social environment’ by including the personality and well-being of individuals’ close ones,” says Stavrova.
If a partner was happier at the start of the study but grew unhappier over time the participants risk of death still increased, but more slowly than those whose spouse was unhappy at the start based on the finding.
“This research might have implications for questions such as what attributes we should pay attention to when selecting our spouse or partner and whether healthy lifestyle recommendations should target couples rather than individuals,” says Stavrova who believes the findings indicate that it is not partner support that plays a greater role in lifespan, rather partner life satisfaction.
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