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Spouses with sunnier dispositions may boost their partners' well-being

husband_wife_bike_ridePast research has shown that a positive outlook on life could be a factor in both health and longevity. But findings recently published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research suggest that having an upbeat spouse can enhance a person's overall health, even above and beyond an individual's own level of optimism.

In the study, researchers examined data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal panel study that surveys a representative sample of more than 26,000 Americans over the age of 50 every two years. The University of Michigan investigators also tracked 1,970 heterosexual couples for four years and reported on their physical functioning, health and certain chronic illnesses. Results showed having an optimistic spouse predicted better mobility and fewer chronic illnesses over time.

According to a Futurity post, social support may partly explain the findings:

Optimists are more likely to seek social support when facing difficult situations and have a larger network of friends who provide that support.


In close relationships, optimism predicts enhanced satisfaction and better cooperative problem-solving.

“So practically speaking, I can imagine an optimistic spouse encouraging his or her partner to go to the gym or eat a healthier meal because the spouse genuinely believes the behavior will make a difference in health,” [Eric Kim, a doctoral student in the University of Michigan’s psychology department,] says.

Previously: The scientific importance of social connections for your health, Examining how your friends influence your health, Can good friends help you live longer? and How social networks might affect your health
Photo by Christopher

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