Negative Emotions About Aging Can Hurt Your Spouse’s Health

A new study has found that men and women who are optimists live an average of 11 to 15 percent longer than pessimists. That was true across the board. Health, wealth, depression, smoking, diet and lifestyle didn’t change it. That gives you good reason to think positively. You can train yourself to be more optimistic. For instance, you can keep a daily list of positive things that make you happy and focus on them, letting go of negative things. The practice can help you!

Optimism is one important psychological dimension that has emerged as showing some really interesting associations with health,” said neuroscientist Richard Davidson, of the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison. “And I would add other positive attributes, such as mindfulness, compassion, kindness and having a strong sense of purpose in life.”

If your spouse is a gloomy Gus, it may be worth working on the goal together. Another new study has found that one spouse’s negative outlook can damage both people’s health. If a wife is pessimistic about her aging, her husband is more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses, disability and functional disabilities. A husband’s negative outlook can leave a wife with higher levels of depression.

The difference in health outcomes stems from how women and men function in couples. Women are often the people who make medical decisions and act as caregivers. If a woman views aging as a state where you will inevitably become unwell, she is less likely to make doctor’s appointments for her husband. As they are the caregivers in the home, the nutritiousness of meals can lessen. The overall healthiness of the couple’s lifestyle can suffer. If it’s the husband who views aging as a negative thing, it’s most likely to wear on a woman’s spirit, not her physical health.

The fact that the husband’s self-perception about aging is not associated with their wife’s physical health further supports that it is usually women doing the health care work within the couple’s context,” said Dr. Meng Sha Luo, who led the research.

This suggests that couples need to work together more to support one another as they age. Being a team and working together to stay healthy means you always have a “health buddy.” You can support one another’s goal. Even if you don’t share the same goals. Maybe one person wants to lose weight, and the other person wants to be fitter. You can both swap to a healthier diet together and learn more about nutrition.

A great way to start would be to ask your doctor if there are any books about healthy aging or your specific health needs that they would suggest would help you. You can read them as a couple. If you or your spouse have a medical condition, you should both know about it. So, learning as much about it as you can is a great way to start working as a team. When you share that information, aging can seem less daunting.

We all age. But that doesn’t mean we have to view it as a terrible thing. Being ill and infirm isn’t an inevitability. With support from your spouse, you can remain healthy and active. Being a team can help you have a long, happy, healthy life!
Banner image: Esther Ann via Unsplash
November 11, 2020
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