Long-term couples may develop biological similarities, study finds

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Here is a rather poetic idea. People A and B have been together for 10 years. Their biologies converged in a strange rhythm; their blood pressure or cholesterol reaching the same markers or similar conditions that affect both partners. This is what a recent study shows – that long-term commitment in relationships reverberates at the very heart of individuals, as they develop biological similarities.

A more technical, even lyrical, term for this phenomenon is “healthy couple concordance”. The idea deals with the timing of the physiology of couples as they stay in a relationship. “It’s like finishing each other’s sentences, but it’s your muscles and cells that work in sync,” NPR noted in a 2016 article.

The biology of torque matching has so far had two possible explanations. He talks about the phenomenon of “assertive mating”, in which people tend to mate with those who share physical characteristics. Studies also show that people are drawn to those with a similar ethnic or educational background; this would make genetic similarities the result of a choice of coupling rather than a long-term relationship.

The second explanation is what this study is about. Posted in Atheroscelorosis, the study involved thousands of couples from Japan and the Netherlands who did not share any genetic commonalities. Instead, their “co-created” biological similarities were an organic product of shared lifestyle choices and routines that synchronized their health. In other words, the outcome of his health may be linked to a long term relationship.

For example, the long-term partners in the study were more likely to suffer from chronic conditions together, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Or that their cholesterol or blood pressure would be somewhat similar because of the couples eating habits and lifestyle.

Synchronizing health is by no means a new idea. Previous studies have traced the similarity of couples’ health outcomes and its connection to long-term relationships. For example, a 2016 study looked at couples together for less than 20 years and couples together for more than 50. For the latter, researchers found striking similarities in kidney function and cholesterol levels in couples who had spent decades together. The resemblance is “something that couples have co-created” over time, Shannon Mejia, a University of Michigan researcher who participated in the study, told NPR.

“You are in an environment together, and you assess that environment together and make decisions together. Mejia’s findings also referred to a 2011 study on similarities in long-term couples. Their experiences of buying food or taking medicine were eerily similar. These decisions about diet, exercise and lifestyle dramatically change body compositions.


Related to The Swaddle:

Happiness in a long-term relationship could be hard-coded in our DNA


It’s a mixed finding that long-term relationships influence physiological health. Spending decades together can take a heavy toll on the individual health of couples in unhappy relationships or toxic marriages. The 2011 study found that symptoms of depression in couples improved or worsened in a synchronized fashion. Additionally, if one partner experienced more symptoms of depression, the other partner experienced physical limitations in performing daily tasks. This is understandable, because if one partner refuses to leave the house, the other can also automatically adjust to a more sedentary lifestyle, which strengthens health outcomes.

For couples in happy relationships, however, this bond can be a great idea. A 2014 study found that when at least one partner had a naturally optimistic outlook, the likelihood of developing arthritis and diabetes was relatively low in both partners.

Additionally, information about the health of individual partners can be pieces of the puzzle in identifying and treating health problems as partners age. Let’s say if one partner is suffering from muscle weakness or kidney problems, it may indicate similar issues for the other due to the couples’ long-term co-created health choices. In illness and in health, the puzzle can prompt early health interventions.

As writer Lindsay Peterson noted in NPR, “When one spouse comes up with a problem, the other spouse can be part of the cause – or the solution.


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