Let your clients know that their positive outlook on life can contribute to better health for their partners and for themselves. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research (2014; doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.201 4.03.104) found that people with an optimistic spouse had better physical functioning and fewer chronic illnesses than people with a more pessimistic partner—and the relationship between optimism and health did not lessen as more years passed.
Dispositional optimism is the general expectation that good things will happen. “A growing body of research shows that the people in our social networks can have a profound influence on our health and well-being. This is the first study to show that someone else’s optimism could be impacting your own health,” said lead study author Eric Kim, MS, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in a university news release.
Researchers tracked 1,970 heterosexual American couples over the age of 50 for 4 years while collecting data on physical functioning, self-rated health and number of chronic illnesses. Data analysis showed that individual optimism and a spouse’s optimism both predicted better health (self-rated) and better physical functioning.
“Practically speaking, I can imagine an optimistic spouse encouraging his or her partner to go to the gym or eat a healthier meal because the spouse genuinely believes the behavior will make a difference in health,” said Kim.
The relationship between an optimistic spouse and better health is associative, which means no cause-and-effect connection has been found. Compared with pessimists, optimistic people are more likely to have stronger networks of social support, to have more satisfaction in close relationships and to be better at cooperative problem solving—all factors that may help explain the findings.
Learn more about this study and related research at www.ericskim.com/.