Can your partner’s health be a reflection of your own?

By Olga Zavgorodnya

During the aging process, many couples link together emotionally and physically in a unique manner. Decisions made within a long-term relationship often reflects both partners’ behaviors and choices. The health history of one’s partner may be exceptionally relevant to one’s health care provider, as it may offer clues into individual health care needs and/or concerns.

Shannon Mejia, a postdoctoral research fellow conducting relationship research with her colleagues at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, discovered that longtime couples experienced mirrored levels of depression, difficulty with daily tasks (grocery shopping, cooking, medication management), and health status, such as muscle weakening, pancreatic cancer or kidney trouble. Their minds and bodies not only synced internally, but with each other!

A hopeful discovery is that these relationships are bidirectional when it comes to benefits just as much as losses. William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, found that “over a four-year period, when one partner’s optimism increased, the other partner experienced fewer illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis compared to people whose partners did not become more optimistic”.

Park Ridge Psychological Services has a number of marriage/couples therapists. Couples who have affected each other negatively can evolve in ways that strengthen their relationship, so that they may live in a fashion where they benefit from each other’s more positive traits. One of couple’s therapy’s guiding principles is that individuals and their problems are best handled within the context of the couple’s relationship. Couples willing to explore how they can borrow from each other’s positive assets and traits tend to have far healthier relationships. This is an exciting avenue to explore!


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