How does your choice of partner affect your health?

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Researchers have used Understanding Society data to investigate how partner selection can affect people’s long-term health.

In the paper; Spousal Health Effects – The Role of Selection the researchers investigated the issue of partner selection in the health of individuals who are at least fifty years old in England and the United States. The data for England came from wave 2 of the Understanding Society study.

The researchers compared the adult behaviours of both English and American couples and discovered that,

“Couples in England are much more likely to both smoke, drink, and engage in vigorous exercise, if not together at least as a parallel common part of their lives.”

Childhood health indicators were also accessed. The report continues, “We also find that childhood illnesses reduced the age of first relationship for women in both countries.” Gender roles were given as the reason for this.

“Women are the care givers and are a force in improving the health of their spouses. Poor health in childhood for women, which eventually will be transmitted to poorer health in adulthood, may make the relationship less stable since not only might women find it more difficult to help their partners but their male partners may not be willing to provide help needed with the adult health problems of the woman.”

Smoking patterns

There was also a large focus on how partner selection can affect smoking behaviours.

  • Most smoking behavior is initiated before marriage. Among men who ever smoked, 87% in the United States and 96% in England started before marriage.
  • Smokers are more likely to partner with smokers.
  • Non-smokers are more likely to partner with non-smokers.
  • However, spousal influence in England is stronger than America as being partnered with a smoker who is trying to quit makes the partner more likely to quit as well. This relationship does not exist in the United States.
  • When one of the partners quits smoking, the odds are more than fifty percent larger in England compared to the United States that the other partner will also be a quitter.

Read this paper in full. The authors are James Banks, Elaine Kelly and James P. Smith. The publisher is National Bureau of Economic Research based in Massachusetts.

this news has been re-posted from the Understanding Society website