A new study says that having a happy and optimistic partner may help you become healthier, preventing cognitive decline.
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A team of researchers at Michigan State University has found that the saying, "happy wife, happy life," may indeed be true. In the study published on the journal Personality, those who are optimistic contribute to the health of their partners, warding off the risk factors that lead to Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and cognitive decline.
"We spend a lot of time with our partners. 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," William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology and co-author of the study, said.
The study findings
The team enrolled 4,457 participants who are couples from the Health and Retirement Study, a large, diverse, and national representative sample of adults in the U.S. who are beyond 50 years old. To arrive at their findings the researchers assessed optimism and cognition at baseline and was measured every two years up to assess cognition data over eight years.
The researchers asked the respondents to respond to statements pertaining to optimism, and at the same time, they also performed memory, word recall, and attention tests to assess cognitive ability.
The team found that there's a possible link between being married to a positive person and preventing the onset of cognitive decline since there's a healthier environment at home.
"Participants' optimism and their partner's optimism were both positively associated with cognitive functioning. Thus, with further research, optimism (at both the individual and couple level) might emerge as an innovative intervention target that helps adults maintain cognitive functioning as they age," the researchers concluded.
The team also said that the study had identified partner optimism as another psychosocial factor that can contribute to making the most of cognitive functioning across the lifespan.
Follow the lead
The findings of the study highlight the importance of having a healthy environment at home and having someone to lead you to a healthier lifestyle. For instance, optimistic people lead by example, and their partners may be influenced to do the same.
There are many benefits of optimism and healthy close relationships for a healthier life. Being able to identify common factors about the aging population can pave the way for strategies to age well and preserve one's cognitive functioning, starving off the risk of Alzheimer's disease, which can be detrimental to one's health.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, characterized by memory loss, confusion, cognitive decline, issues with planning and solving problems, trouble understanding spatial relationships and visual images, to name a few.
Worldwide, there are about 50 million people with dementia. In the United States, an estimated 5 million people are living with Alzheimer's disease, making it the 6th leading cause of death among Americans. Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for Alzheimer's disease, and the gradual decline in cognitive abilities may take a toll on a patient's life, as the quality of life eventually deteriorates.
Oh, J, Chopik, WJ, Kim, ES. The association between actor/partner optimism and cognitive functioning among older couples. Journal of Personality. 2019; 00: 1– 11. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12529