Having a committed partner can be lovely: you get emotional support, a friend on-call, and more frequent sexual gratification than you did as a single person. (Sorry, Don Jons, but it’s true.) On the other hand, that same partner can drive you mad with strife and romantic discord. As it so happens, your one-and-only can affect more than just your mood swings: they can also have a drastic impact on your physical health. Whether it’s bad stuff (like giving you chronic back pain) or good (like making you quit a noxious habit), here are the 11 science-backed ways that having a partner will affect your health. And for more relationship coverage, learn the 13 secrets you should always keep from your significant other.
A study in mSystems found that cohabiting couples end up having starkly similar microbiomes. (That’s the collection of bacteria that lives on your body and in your digestive tract.) According to the research, a computer algorithm was able to detect cohabiting couples with a whopping 86 percent accuracy. The study’s authors are sure to point out that, when you think about it, this makes sense: Cohabiting couples share showers, after all.
No matter how much you love your partner, they may be causing you pain—literally. A study in PLOS Medicine showed that partners of folks with depression were 19 percent more likely to suffer chronic pain, whether that’s weakness, aches, or the chronic bugaboo that plagues more than 80 percent of us: lower back pain.
Researchers at Monash University in Victoria, Australia, found that supportive partners of people with insomnia may be exacerbating things. Supportive actions—encouraging earlier bed times, later waking times, and other solutions—in fact put undue stress and pressure on their partner, making sleep even more elusive. If insomnia is plaguing you on a regular basis, learn the 11 doctor-approved secrets for falling asleep faster—tonight.
“Fat and happy” is a phrase for a reason, it seems. Researchers at Southern Methodist University found that happy newlyweds gained weight faster than unhappy newlyweds. The reason? Happy newlyweds are less inclined to leave their marriage, and thus don’t have to boost their sex appeal for the eventual singlehood. However, if you find yourself in an unhappy marriage, maybe it would behoove you to learn the single best way to send your sex appeal into the stratosphere.
It sounds nice: you and your partner going on a diet together, the two of your striving to life your best life. But according to a study in Eating Behaviors, when romantic couples try to diet together, one will succeed, and one will fall behind; the trailing individual in more likely to lose confidence and give up on the goal. When it comes time to adopting a diet, try swapping the carbs in your life out for the 10 healthiest carbs for maintaining a flat stomach.
According to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine, having a partner can drastically improve your chances at quitting smoking—especially if that partner quits at the same time. The researchers found that 8 percent of individuals were able to quit smoking if their significant other was a smoker, 17 percent were able to were with a non-smoker, and a whopping 50 percent were able to quit if both tried to do so at the same time.
Once you hit a certain age, heart issues become more prevalent—and with them, rates of coronary bypass surgery surge, as well. But if you’re married, you’re more likely to make it through the ordeal. According to a study in Health Psychology of folks who underwent bypass surgery, married individuals survived, on average, an additional 15 years longer than their single counterparts.
Doctors at Harvard Medical School found that married people are more likely to catch cancer early on and take steps toward recovery. The reason? A spouse is more likely to urge you to be diligent about medical check-ups, whereas single people typically just let those things fly. Furthermore, married people survive cancer at a higher rate than non-married people. For more coverage on the world’s meanest disease, learn what it’s like to live with prostate cancer.
If you’re a woman, that is. According to a study in Scientific Reports, women in healthy, happy relationships can experience a phenomenon called “interpersonal synchronization.” In other words, when a woman is in pain, physical contact with her partner leads to shared and synchronized heart rates, breathing patterns, and even pain levels. Take note: When she’s giving birth, hold her hand.
Research out of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that being married can have a direct impact on physical fitness—but more so for men. The researchers found that, over the course of 6 years, if a woman’s husband met his fitness goals, she was 40 percent more likely to meet hers. But on the other hand, if a man’s wife met her goals, he was 70 percent more likely to meet his. And for motivation to get yourself working out, be sure to learn the 11 ways that smart people motivate themselves to go to the gym.
And finally, according to a study in Annals of Behavior Medicine, married people just live longer. The researchers found that, out of 5,000 individuals born in the 1940s, the single folks died prematurely at nearly twice the rate. Which… all right, then: Time to settle down.
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