Being married to a happy spouse not only leads to a long marriage, but it could help you live longer too.

This is according to a study was published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

It’s all about spousal life satisfaction

“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.

Notably, spouses’ life satisfaction was an even better predictor of participants’ mortality than participants’ own life satisfaction.

Participants who had a happy partner at the beginning of the study were less likely to pass away over the next eight years compared with participants who had less happy partners.

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“The findings underscore the role of individuals’ immediate social environment in their health outcomes. Most importantly, it has the potential to extend our understanding of what makes up individuals’ ‘social environment’ by including the personality and well-being of individuals’ close ones,” says Stavrova.

Life satisfaction is known to be associated with behaviours that can affect health, including diet and exercise, and people who have a happy, active spouse, for example, are likely to have an active lifestyle themselves. The opposite is also likely to be true, says Stavrova:

“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.”

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Over 4000 couples studied

Stavrova examined data from a nationally representative survey of about 4 400 couples over the age of 50 in the United States.

The survey collected data on participants who had spouses or live-in partners. For up to eight years, participants and their spouses reported on life satisfaction and various factors hypothesized to be related to mortality, including perceived partner support and frequency of physical activity.

They also completed a self-rated health measure and provided information related to their morbidity (as measured by the number of doctor-diagnosed chronic conditions), gender, age at the beginning of the study, ethnicity, education, household income, and partner mortality.

Participant deaths over the course of the study were tracked using the National Death Index from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or spouses’ reports.

At the end of eight years, about 16% of the participants had died. 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 also tended to report lower relationship satisfaction, lower life satisfaction, and having a partner who also reported lower life satisfaction. The spouses of participants who died were also more likely to pass away within the eight-year observation period.

Active couples are happy couples

The findings suggest a link between greater partner life satisfaction at the beginning of the study and lower participant mortality risk.

Contrary to what one may think, the study found that perceived partner support was not related to lower participant mortality. However, higher partner life satisfaction was related to more partner physical activity, which corresponded to higher participant physical activity and lower participant mortality.

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Source: Association for Psychological Science via

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