Here is an Appropriate Study for Valentine’s Day!
A study by researchers at Michigan State University found that a happy optimistic partner promotes better health for their spouse as they grow old together. This lowers the risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), dementia and cognitive decline. The study was published November 29, 2019 in the Journal of Personality. It is certainly an appropriate study for Valentine’s Day.
The Health and Retirement Study
Participants were 4,457 American heterosexual couples over the age of 50 from the Health and Retirement Study. Optimism was examined at the beginning of the study and cognition was measured every two years over a follow-up period of eight years.
Those who were optimistic and who had optimistic partners had better cognitive functioning as they got older.
Married People Spend a Lot of Time with their Husbands or Wives, Especially after Retirement
According to Dr. William Chopik assistant professor of psychology and co-author of the study, married people spend a lot of time with their husbands or wives, especially after retirement. An optimistic healthy person may encourage a spouse to eat healthier foods, to get physical exercise and remind them to take their meds. This might lead to a joint effort to quit smoking or beginning an exercise program. Living a healthy lifestyle like maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough physical exercise also has psychological aspects. Those who are married to happy, optimistic partners do better when it comes to cognitive help. A healthy, happy home environment may even lead to a longer life. More research is needed to confirm these findings.
Previous research showed that optimism in married couples was also associated with a lower risk for chronic physical illnesses, better physical health and better self-rated health.
Shared Experiences Lead to Better Memory Details
Couples who recall shared experiences have better memory details.
Optimism can be prescribed. According to Dr. Chopik, research shows that people have the ability to change their personalities and behavior, if they have a strong will to do so. There are also intervention programs that can help to gain a more optimistic outlook.
Research Shows that Grief over the Death of a Spouse is a Risk Factor for Illness
While this study shows the health benefits of an optimistic spouse, other research shows how grief over the death of a beloved spouse can raise the risk for physical and mental health problems. Bereavement is a major risk for cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke, especially in the first six months following the death of a spouse. Grief also raises the risk for cancer, sleep disorders, depression, and dementia. In fact, a Swedish study even found an increased risk of hip fractures following the death of a spouse. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) offers tips to help manage feelings of grief and loss.
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Those who have a spouse with an optimistic outlook are fortunate indeed, as this may contribute to better physical and cognitive health.