Happy wife, happy (and healthy) life
It turns out that married men have been right for years: A happy wife does equal a happy life.
Researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Michigan looked at 394 couples married an average 39 years. They found that if the wife was content in the marriage, the husband was more likely to be happier overall, even if he wasn’t thrilled with the union.
“I think it comes down to the fact that when a wife is satisfied with the marriage she tends to do a lot more for her husband, which has a positive effect on his life,” said Deborah Carr, a sociology professor at Rutgers. “Men tend to be less vocal about their relationships and their level of marital unhappiness might not be translated to their wives.”
Carr and Vicki Freedman, a research professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, co-authored the study published in the October issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family. The goal was to examine the feelings of both spouses to determine how their marital appraisals influenced their psychological health.
The data was collected as part of a separate national study of income, health and disability conducted in 2009. To be eligible for Carr and Freedman’s study, at least one of the spouses had to be 60 or older.
Study participants answered several questions, such as whether their spouse appreciates them, argues with them, understands their feelings or gets on their nerves. They were also asked to keep detailed diaries about how happy they were in the previous 24 hours doing selected activities like shopping, doing household chores and watching television.
Those involved in the study, on average, rated their general life satisfaction high, typically five out of six points. Husbands tended to rate their marriage slightly more positive than their wives.
“The quality of a marriage is important because it provides a buffer against the health-depleting effects of later life stressors and helps couples manage difficult decisions regarding health and medical decision making,” Carr said in an interview with Rutgers Today, a digital news site operated by the university.
Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group, said the findings provide an important look at the state of mind of older adults.
“There is considerable research linking a strong marriage to good health. Being socially connected and supported clearly helps improve overall quality of life, including health status,” said Dr. DeBruler, who practices at Advocate Condell Medical Center.
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