NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 18, 2007

To the long list of things to consider when choosing a mate, there is now evidence suggesting that your spouse's personality can have a major influence on your own ability to recover from -- and perhaps even survive -- a major challenge to your health, according to a new study published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study involved 111 coronary artery bypass patients and their spouses.  The researchers assessed aspects of personality, symptoms of depression, and the marital satisfaction of each patient and his spouse prior to, and 18 months following, surgery:

  • The main finding was that within couples, the personality of one person predicted the depression level of their partner 18 months later.
  • The research demonstrated that a patient married to a generally neurotic and anxious spouse was more likely to report symptoms of depression 18 months after surgery.

"We've known for some time that a patient's personality and mood before surgery influence their own mental and physical recovery following surgery," says researcher John M. Ruiz.  "We also know that a partner's personality and mood can affect us in the short term.  What this work shows is that a partner's personality traits are also important determinants of our own long-term emotional and physical recovery from a major health challenge."

"In other words, the spouse's personality -- quite independent of the patient's own personality -- exhibited a major influence on how well the patient was feeling and progressing towards recovery," he said.

Source: "Spouse's Personality May Be Hazardous to Your Health," Washington State University/Science Daily, January 17, 2007; based upon: John M. Ruiz, Karen A. Matthews and Michael F. Scheier, "Does Who You Marry Matter for Your Health? Influence of Patients' and Spouses' Personality on Their Partners' Psychological Well-Being Following Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 91, No. 2, 2006.

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