Happy Marriages Extend Our Life Spans, Says Science

by Cassandra Stone
Originally Published: 
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A new study suggests people with happier marriages live longer — guess we’ve all gotta get our sh*t together

We’ve all heard that saying, “happy wife, happy life,” right? Well, it turns out there may be some scientific evidence to support that often-muttered claim. According to a new study, having a happy spouse leads to a longer marriage, yes, but it’s also associated with a longer life span, too.

The study, published in Psychological Science, notes that each spouse’s life satisfaction was a solid predictor of the participants’ mortality. Those with a happy partner at the beginning of the study were less likely to pass away over the next eight years compared with spouses who had less happy partners.

Related: 10 Signs You’re In An Unhappy Or Loveless Marriage And What To Do About It

“The data show that spousal life satisfaction was associated with mortality, regardless of individuals’ socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, or their physical health status,” says study author Olga Stavrova, a researcher at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

Overall life satisfaction is known to be associated with behaviors that can affect one’s health, like diet and exercise and other daily habits. The study shows that people who have a happy, active spouse are also likely to lead an active, happier lifestyle themselves. On the flip side, the opposite can also be true.

“If your partner is depressed and wants to spend the evening eating chips in front of the TV — that’s how your evening will probably end up looking, as well,” Stavrova says. Now wait just a minute, I’m feeling personally attacked here — sometimes we like sitting in front of the TV eating chips, damn it!

The study was comprised of data gained from 4,400 participating couples in the U.S. over the age of 50. Couples had to have a spouse or live-in partner to participate. For eight years, all spouses and partners had to report on their life satisfaction and other various factors related to mortality like partner support, physical activity, household income, gender, age, etc. Participant deaths over the course of the study were tracked as well.

At the end of the eight-year period, approximately 16% of the participants had died. Notably, those who died tended to be “older, male, less educated, less wealthy, less physically active, and in poorer health than those who were still alive.” Those who died before the end of the study had also tended to report lower relationship satisfaction, lower life satisfaction, and were more likely to have partners who responded similarly.

Since yes, even incredibly happy couples fight, can you imagine how many of us are going to keep this in our back pockets the next time we feel wronged or unfairly dissatisfied? “Stop bugging me about the garbage/laundry/dog’s toenails, damn it, it’s shortening my life span!” is likely something that will be uttered within the walls of my own home within the next week. Just saying.

The findings of this study show the risk of mortality for participants with a happy spouse increased more slowly than mortality risk for participants with an unhappy spouse. While factors like socio-economics aren’t something most of us have any control over (and honestly, who doesn’t fight about money), these results can still inspire us to make improvements within our reach. Like exercising together and prioritizing other happy activities each partner enjoys.

Stavrov agrees. “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 (or households) rather than individuals.”

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