A recent study found that being more positive can reduce the risk of disease, but researchers from Michigan State University have extended those results to consumers’ romantic partners.
Their study revealed that having a partner who is happy and optimistic is more likely to bode well for overall health and well-being, as it could reduce the risk of any number of diseases while also boosting cognitive function.
“We spend a lot of time with our partners,” said researcher William Chopik. “They might encourage us to exercise, eat healthier, or remind us to take our medicine. When your partner is optimistic and healthy, it can translate to similar outcomes in your own life. You actually do experience a rosier future by living longer and staving off cognitive illnesses.”
A partner’s influence
To see the effect that a happy partner can have on consumers’ health, the researchers followed nearly 4,500 married couples, all of whom were over the age of 50, for eight years.
At the beginning of the study, the researchers assessed each partner’s optimism; their health and cognitive function were tested every two years throughout the remainder of the study. The team learned that partners who cultivated healthy lifestyles, and who were generally more positive people, had better cognitive outcomes and stronger health overall.
“We found that when you look at risk factors for what predicts things like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a lot of them are things like living a healthy lifestyle,” said Chopik. “Maintaining a healthy weight and physical activity are large predictors. There are some physiological markers as well. It looks like people who are married to optimists tend to score better on all those metrics.”
While some people are naturally more inclined to have a sunnier disposition, Chopik says that it’s possible for all consumers to make this change to improve their lives.
“There are studies that show people have the power to change their personalities, as long as they engage in things that make them change,” Chopik said. “Part of it is wanting to change. There are also intervention programs that suggest you can build up optimism.”