‘Happy Wife, Happy Life?’ University Researchers Say Having a Happy Partner Means a Healthier You


While a great many people are looking for someone to make them happy, research shows that having a happy marriage generally makes people happy and healthy. This might sound cliché, but the saying "happy wife, happy life" is more than just a saying by happy husbands - it's actually backed by a study published in Health Psychology.

William B. Chopik of Michigan State University and Ed O'Brien of the University of Chicago, wanting to look into how a romantic relationship influences the health conditions of both the man and the woman, analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study, which is sponsored by the National Institute of Aging and conducted by the University of Michigan, Psychology Today reported.

Chopik and O'Brien compiled data from 1,981 heterosexual couples, with ages ranging from 50 to 94. All of them self-reported measures of life satisfaction, health status, level of overall physical activity, degree of physical impairment, history of chronic disease, and concerns about physical or emotional problems in their partner.

The results were divided into two estimates: actor effects, or the link between a person's happiness and personal health; and partner effects, or how a person's happiness affected his/her partner's health. Data from the first assessment was used as baseline for measurement of differences in succeeding assessments.

Chopik and O'Brien found that, as expected, a person's happiness is linked with better self-health and healthier lifestyle choices, starting from the first and into succeeding assessments. They also found that if a person has a happy partner, his or her health and kinds of lifestyle choices, such as physical exercise, improve over time.

Moreover, results show that even if a person isn't that happy, his or her health is still positively affected by a happy partner. This suggests that unhappy people can still receive the health benefits that having a happy partner brings.

Chopik and O'Brien explained that this could be brought about by several factors:

  • Happy spouses are more able to care for their spouses, especially when the latter is ill;
  • Happy spouses influence their partners to make better lifestyle choices, and are more able to devote time and attention to caring for their spouses even if they don't take good care of themselves; and
  • Happy spouses are able to lower the stress their partners face, and generally make life easier for them. They also help their partners cope with problems in a much-healthier way compared to unhealthy means such as binge-eating.

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