By John Salak –
Loving and caring may be all it’s cracked up to be after all. Studies from The Netherlands and the U.S. indicate individuals who are happy with their spouses tend to live longer healthier lives than those who are not and that humans are increasingly cooperative despite the world’s terrible turmoil.
Researchers at Tilburg University in the Netherlands reported that “spousal life satisfaction” tends to lead to longer lives regardless of an individual’s socioeconomic and demographic characteristics or their physical health. Can this be the secret to a longer life? Amazingly, the study added that spousal satisfaction was even more important than an individual’s own life satisfaction.
Tilburg University showed that study participants who were happy with their partners at the beginning of the research were less likely to pass away over the next 8 years compared to those who were less happy with their partners.
“The findings underscore the role of individuals’ immediate social environment in their health outcomes. Most importantly, it has the potential to extend our understanding of what makes up individuals’ ‘social environment’ by including the personality and well-being of individuals’ close ones,” noted Olga Stavrova, the study’s author.
While the study was conducted by Dutch researchers, it was based on data collected from 4,400 couples in the U.S. over the age of 50. Stavrova noted that while more research is needed, there appears to be a correlation between higher partner life satisfaction and greater partner physical activity. It is likely that greater physical activity combined with less emotional stress contributes to lower mortality rates.
Personal perceptions and general cooperation, even among relative strangers, was the focus of another study by the University of Pennsylvania. The study showed that a capacity for empathy fosters cooperation among individuals—even people who really don’t know each other.
In essence, the research showed that a good reputation alone might not be enough to foster cooperation. Empathy, the ability to take another person’s viewpoint into consideration, is the critical factor for extending help.
And more than simply being able to be emphatic, cooperation is dependent on a person’s willingness to look at others. “Having not just the capacity but the willingness to consider someone else’s perspective when forming moral judgments tends to promote cooperation,” explained the study’s senior author Joshua Plotkin, an evolutionary biologist.
Empathy and cooperation may even be socially contagious, according to the study.
“We asked, ‘can empathy evolve?'” Arunas Radzvilavicius, the study’s lead author, reported “What if individuals start copying the empathetic way of observing each other’s interactions?”
The result? “We saw that empathy soared through the population,” Radzvilavicius said.
“It makes a lot of sense,” Plotkin added. “If I don’t account for your point of view, there will be many occasions when I judge you harshly when I really shouldn’t because, from your perspective, you were doing the right thing.”