Science Says a Happy Spouse Means a Longer Life
Happy wife, longer life. For real!
We’ve all heard the adage, “Happy wife, happy life.” But while there’s no question that marital satisfaction would inevitably provide a boost to happiness, could it possibly help extend your golden years as well? According to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science, the answer is yes.
Olga Stavrova, a social psychology professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, examined over 4,000 married couples aged 50 and above over the course of eight years, and found that those who reported higher levels of spousal satisfaction had a 13 percent reduced risk of mortality.
Now, granted, the study was correlational, not causational, meaning that it can only prove that there is a link between having a happy spouse and an extended lifespan, not that one necessarily causes the other. But it makes sense. After all, studies have shown that happier people tend to live longer, and what could make you happier than knowing your partner is still thrilled to be with you after so many years?
What’s also interesting about the study is that this decreased risk of mortality among happily married people held strong even when accounting for other variables that impact happiness, such as the couple’s household income, sociodemographic characteristics, and baseline health. So maybe the Beatles were right and love really is all you need.
Given that some research has shown that getting divorced can shorten your lifespan, it’s also not that much of a stretch to think that the opposite might be true. One 2018 study of over 5,000 adults over age 50 living in Great Britain actually found that those who were divorced or separated had a 46 percent greater risk of dying than their married counterparts, which researchers speculated may be due to the bad habits that people tend to adopt in order to deal with the emotional distress of the divorce.
Research has also shown that marital satisfaction has a big impact on both your heart and brain health, especially in your later years. One recent UK study found that men who described their marriage as “improving over time” had a lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol levels and body mass indexes than those in unhappy marriages. And one 2017 study even found that married people have a lower risk for dementia than those who are divorced or lifelong singles.
It’s also very much a myth that happiness in a marriage is at its peak during the honeymoon phase and then eventually tapers off the longer you are together. For more on that, check out what Science Says Is the Happiest Point In Your Marriage.
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