Having a happy partner may be a key aspect of preventing the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later in life, according to a new study from Michigan State University. Lifestyle factors are believed to play a big role in whether someone will develop dementia; having a healthy, happy partner was found to increase the odds of someone improving their lifestyle risk factors for the condition, decreasing their odds of suffering from the disease.
Many poor lifestyle habits have been linked to increased odds of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, including poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and obesity. The new study found that having a healthy and happy partner may decrease a person’s odds of languishing in any of these risk factors. A healthy partner may, for example, encourage you to eat healthier or to be more active with them.
The study involved around 4,500 heterosexual couples, according to the university. These participants had been married for up to eight years at the time of the study. An optimistic spouse was linked to a healthier home environment, which in turn was associated with healthier lifestyle habits and decreased odds of suffering from mental decline later in life.
Study co-author William Chopik explained:
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.
Even if you’re not a natural optimist, it may be possible to train yourself to have a more positive outlook on life, according to the researchers. Of course, someone has to want to change if they have any hope of becoming a more optimistic person. Embracing the happy lifestyle of an optimistic partner may do more than improve day-to-day life, according to the study, helping keep people happier and healthier toward the end of their lives.