Having a happy husband or wife helps you live longer than those with miserable partners, research suggests.

Spouses who are unfit and shun healthy lifestyles not only risk knocking years off their own lives, they make it more likely their partner will die early, too.

Now scientists suggest doctors should look further than a patient’s health and mental state and take the spouse’s well-being into account as well.

Dr Olga Stavrova, who was behind the research, said: “The data shows that spousal life satisfaction was associated with mortality, regardless of individuals’ socio-economic and demographic characteristics, or their health status.”

The study, by scientists at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, collected reports from about 4400 couples aged over 50 in the US for eight years. The couples were from diverse backgrounds, although some 99% were heterosexual.

The survey assessed a range of factors, with participants asked to rate on a scale of one to 10 their level of life satisfaction and frequency of exercise.

At the end of the eight years, about 16% of the participants had died. While those who died tended to be older, male, less wealthy and less active, they also tended to report lower relationship and life satisfaction - and were married to partners who also had lower life satisfaction.

The spouses of participants who died were also more likely to die within the eight-year period than those whose partners were still living.

Stavrova said the findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, had “the potential to extend our understanding of what makes up individuals’ ‘social environment’ by including the personality and well-being of individuals’ close ones".

“If your partner is depressed and wants to spend the evening eating chips in front of the TV, that’s how your evening will probably end up looking.”

She said the findings could affect what qualities people look for in a partner. “This research might have implications for questions such as what attributes we should pay attention to when selecting our spouse or partner and whether healthy lifestyle recommendations should target couples or households over individuals.” 

Daily Mail