Got a spouse? Their happiness may be tied to your level of health, with happy spouses associated with better health.
In a study published in the journal Health Psychology, researchers from the American Psychological Association assessed 1,981 heterosexual couples and found that those with happy spouses were likelier to report better health down the line. The researchers observed this, at least, in middle-aged and older couples.
According to William Chopik, Ph.D., the study's principal investigator, the results of their research broadens assumptions about the connection between health and happiness significantly, hinting at a unique social link.
"Simply having a happy partner may enhance health as much as striving to be happy oneself," he said.
Earlier studies have suggested that being healthy generally makes people happy but the researchers took this knowledge further by examining the health effects that interpersonal relationships have.
Based on their findings, Chopik and colleagues identified possible reasons that could explain why having a happy spouse led to better health, regardless of an individual's own level of happiness.
One of the reasons the researchers came up with was that happy spouses are likelier to offer stronger social support, addressing emotional needs that could have physical implications on their partner.
Another is that happy spouses are likelier to promote activities that support good health, such as eating properly, exercising regularly and getting sufficient rest.
Chopik added that just knowing they have a happy partner could lessen an individual's propensity for engaging in self-destructive behavior like taking drugs or drinking excessively.
For the study, the researchers carried out surveys across a six-year period, assessing self-rated information on health, physical activity and happiness from couples between the ages of 50 and 94. Results made no difference whether it was husbands or wives being surveyed.
In June, researchers from the University of California San Diego showed that those married had higher chances of beating cancer. Using data from the California Cancer Registry gathered between 2000 and 2009, they assessed 60,000 people diagnosed with different forms of blood cancer.
Based on their findings, which were presented at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology conference, the researchers found that those who tied the knot are 20 percent likelier to survive their cancer compared to subjects who were single. However, they observed that singlehood is often detrimental only to men, as women still generally enjoy support despite not being married.
The main reason for being married upping chances of cancer survival is similar to how happy spouses can influence their partners' health: by offering support. Married cancer patients are likelier to take their medications regularly or attend chemotherapy sessions as needed because they have someone who can make them stick to their treatment.
Photo: Ian MacKenzie | Flickr