Is your partner a couch potato or a gym rat? Could they eat fast food for every meal or do they prefer to make their own salads with homemade vinaigrette?
Ok, so it’s usually not so black and white, but science says that your partner’s personality traits can influence your life – including your health and perhaps even longevity. (Read as: Choose your spouse carefully!)
When researchers talk about personality, they’re referring to a person’s particular way of feeling, thinking and behaving. The five traits that scientists have identified are: extroversion, agreeableness, openness to experiences, emotional stability, and conscientiousness.
While all of these factors can impact members of a couple, just how conscientious one partner is will especially rub off on the other partner.
So, what exactly is conscientiousness? Researchers define this trait as being marked by very high levels of self-discipline. Conscientious people are generally more organized and careful, so they tend to lead healthier lives than their less conscientious peers. For example, these folks might be more likely to eat more healthily, do more exercise and follow their doctor’s advice.
As to longevity, research shows that the more conscientious a person is, the longer they tend to live.
It makes sense that if you are conscientious, you stand to be healthier. But the interesting part is that science has found that your partner will be, too.
One study, conducted only a decade ago, investigated the relationship between partner conscientiousness and health ratings in 2,203 older couples. What they found was that the husbands’ conscientiousness influenced the wives’ health and vice versa.
The same findings were replicated in a more recent study from 2016, conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana and the University of Toronto. These results, though, took the findings a step further.
These scientists found that conscientiousness had a “compensatory effect,” meaning that having a more conscientious spouse predicted better health, even after taking into account a participant’s own conscientiousness. A finding that the researchers described as “compensatory conscientiousness.”
Researchers are still intrigued. An updated version of the same research was just conducted by scientists at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.
They aimed to determine if a person’s conscientiousness impacted their partner’s quality of life. Here, the term “quality of life” refers to one’s satisfaction with their life, including social relationships, psychological state, and physical health.
The findings of this study demonstrated that an individual’s conscientiousness was related to their quality of life. Participants who had higher levels of conscientiousness reported better quality of life. What’s more, people who had partners with higher levels of conscientiousness reported having a better quality of life also.
The question is, why is there a correlation of this nature? Perhaps partners with high conscientiousness help create an environment that leads to improved health for the couple. Conscientious partners are also known to be dependable, so they are likely to be good providers of social support for their spouse.
The bottom line is that science says our partner’s personality is important for our health. So, while you may not want to bring a personality questionnaire to the first date, you want to choose a spouse with care. Not only will you be spending years to come with them, but you’ll also be influenced by how healthily they chose to live.