Having a happy, smiling partner can keep you healthy and fit as you enter middle age and move towards the golden years, say researchers, adding that simply having a happy partner may enhance health as much as striving to be happy oneself.
"This finding significantly broadens assumptions about the relationship between happiness and health, suggesting a unique social link," said William Chopik, assistant Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University.
In the study of 1,981 middle-age couples, researchers found that people with happy spouses were much more likely to report better health over time.
This occurred above and beyond the person's own happiness.
Previous research suggests happy people are generally healthy people but Chopik wanted to take it one step further by exploring the health effects of interpersonal relationships.
According to him, happy partners likely provide stronger social support such as care-taking, as compared to unhappy partners who are more likely to be focused on their own stressors.
"Happy partners may get unhappy people involved with activities and environments that promote good health, such as maintaining regular sleep cycles, eating nutritious food and exercising," Chopik added.
Being with a happy partner should make a person's life easier even if not explicitly happier.
"Simply knowing that one's partner is satisfied with his or her individual circumstances may temper a person's need to seek self-destructive outlets, such as drinking or drugs, and may more generally offer contentment in ways that afford health benefits down the road," Chopik pointed out.
The study examined the survey information of couples age 50 to 94, including happiness, self-rated health and physical activity over a six-year period.
The results showed no difference between husbands and wives in the study.
The study was published by the American Psychological Association in the journal Health Psychology.
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