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Did you know? Having a positive spouse helps you live longer

Lisa Armstrong is the mother of two grown daughters, a yoga practitioner, an educator and a long-time freelance writer who focuses on health, wellness, and historical topics that affect humanity's personal and collective well-being.

Benefits of a happy spouse

Sure, having a positive spouse makes for healthier relationship but did you know it could actually help your live longer? If your spouse looks on the bright side of life, both of you may enjoy some wonderful mental and physical benefits.

Happy man in relationship

Photo credit: Newton Daly/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Your primary relationship often has the biggest effect on your sense of purpose and mental outlook, so it makes sense that continuous conflicts and depression negatively affect a couple.

What about the opposite?

What if at least one person in a marriage has a sunshine-y disposition and sees the bright side of life? A relationship study several years ago noted that a positive relationship with a spouse can be one of your greatest buffers against physical and mental problems.

Why would your partner's mental outlook affect your health?

Researchers tracked almost 2,000 couples over 50 years of age in a four-year study that looked at the mental and physical health of one partner demonstrating a "sunny-side-up" disposition.

"A growing body of research shows that the people in our social networks can have a profound influence on our health and well-being. This is the first study to show that someone else’s optimism could be impacting your own health,” says lead author Eric Kim, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychology.

What they found was quite interesting — and the nature of optimism and social support are keys.

Optimists tend to:

  • have more friends
  • reach out for support in difficult times

All of the above influences their partner, coupled with a perky person's tendency to be more supportive and encouraging toward their spouse's efforts toward better health — such as starting an exercise routine, practicing meditation or eating healthier, researchers say.

How else does a positive partner's outlook affect your physical health?

Expecting good things to happen has also been linked with positive physical outcomes, ranging from reducing your risk of heart disease to increasing levels of antioxidants in your bloodstream.

Also in couple relationships, the study indicated that a happy outlook predicts enhanced satisfaction and cooperative problem-solving, such as ways to protect one's health during the aging process.

Being optimistic is linked with healthier behaviors, too. Hopeful people are more likely to exercise, eat healthier diets, manage stress better and refrain from smoking, researchers say.

And the results also showed that both people in the couple had better physical mobility and fewer long-term illnesses.

"Identifying factors that protect against declining health is important for the increasing number of older adults who face the dual threat of declining health and rising health care costs," study co-author Jacqui Smith, emphasized.

So put a smile on your face and start living life with a more optimistic attitude — the benefits are worth it.

More on health and happiness

What complaining does for (and to) your health
Is social media making you unhappy?
The busy woman's guide to making time for emotions

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