A happy partner leads to a healthier future

 

A happy partner leads to a healthier future

 

Science now supports the saying, “happy wife, happy life.”

Michigan State University research has revealed that people who are optimistic contribute to the health of their partners – this can in turn stave off the risk factors leading to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline as they grow old.

 “We spend a lot of time with our partners,” said William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology and co-author of the study. “They might encourage us to exercise, eat healthier or remind us to take our medicine. When your partner is optimistic and healthy, it can translate to similar outcomes in your own life. You actually do experience a rosier future by living longer and staving off cognitive illnesses.  An optimistic partner may encourage eating a salad or work out together to develop healthier lifestyles. For example, if you quit smoking or start exercising, your partner is close to following suit within a few weeks and months. 

“We found that when you look at the risk factors for what predicts things like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a lot of them are things like living a healthy lifestyle,” Chopik said. “Maintaining a healthy weight and physical activity are large predictors. There are some physiological markers as well. It looks like people who are married to optimists tend to score better on all of those metrics.” 

The study followed almost 4,500 heterosexual couples from the Health and Retirement study for as long as 8 years. The researchers discovered a potential link between being married to an optimistic person and a reduced likelihood of cognitive decline – this is due to a healthier environment in the home.

“There’s a sense where optimists lead by example, and their partners follow their lead,” Chopik said. “While there’s some research on people being jealous of their partner’s good qualities or on having bad reactions to someone trying to control you, it is balanced with other research that shows being optimistic is associated with perceiving your relationship in a positive light.” 

The research also showed that when couples recall experiences together, more significant details from the memories tend to emerge. Chopik explained that a recent example was Google’s ad at the 2020 Super Bowl, “Loretta”, in which an elderly man uses his Google Assistant to help him remember details about his late wife.

“The things he was recollecting were positive things about his partner,” Chopik said. “There is science behind the Google ad. Part of the types of memories being recalled were positive aspects of their relationship and personalities.” 

Can optimism be prescribed? Although there is a heritable component to optimism, Chopik says that it may be a trainable quality.

“There are studies that show people have the power to change their personalities, as long as they engage in things that make them change,” Chopik said. “Part of it is wanting to change. There are also intervention programs that suggest you can build up optimism.” 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jopy.12529

 

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