If happiness is a cup, may your cup runneth over: It seems your husband or wife might catch the overflow. A new study suggests that in romantic relationships, health and happiness go hand-in-hand.
That’s because having a happy partner could be good for your physical health, according to researchers at Michigan State University. They found that middle aged and older adults were more likely to report overall good health if their spouses were happy.
“Simply having a happy partner may enhance [one’s health] as much as striving to be happy oneself,” said lead author William J. Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at MSU, in a statement.
Chopik’s team used six years of data from the Health and Retirement Study, a long-running survey sponsored by the National Institute on Aging. Nearly 2,000 heterosexual couples between the ages of 50 and 90 responded to surveys, self-reporting on their happiness, health and physical activity.
The researchers wrote that people who reported having a happy partner were 34 percent more likely to report good health for themselves, including better overall health, less physical impairment and lower rates of chronic disease. Those with happy partners were more physically active, too.
According to Chopik, happy spouses can provide strong social support compared to unhappy partners, who might just focus on their own stressors. And happy spouses promote healthy routines, such as dragging their spouse out of bed to exercise and to eat healthier, Chopik told Time.
There’s a lot of evidence that people in happy marriages live longer, but this study helps explain how health might be affected by a spouse’s level of happiness, regardless of your own outlook.
There was no difference found across gender ― a surprise, because men typically glean more benefits from marriage than women do. But in this case, a happy husband is just as likely to influence his wife to be happier and take on healthier behavior. And while the study focused on heterosexual couples, that’s not to say same-sex marriages wouldn’t benefit just as much.
“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,” said Chopik in a statement, “and may more generally offer contentment in ways that afford health benefits down the road.”