Studies have shown that happily married people tend to be healthier. But what happens in the later years, when health naturally starts to decline due to age -- what kind of impact does that have on a couple's relationship?
According to a new study, marital quality suffers if the husband's health declines, but not vice versa.
Researchers at the University of Chicago studied 953 couples from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP) -- a nationally representative study of older adults. The results were published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
According to the study, wives whose husbands had poor physical health reported higher levels of conflict in the marriage than those whose husbands were in good health. But the same was not true when the situation reversed; the wives' health had no impact on the husbands' reports of marital conflict.
The researchers speculate that the discrepancy may stem from the wife's role in older marriages.
"Women are sometimes spoken of as the 'relationship expert' in marriages, that is, more likely to be equipped with skills for socioemotional work and maintaining the satisfaction of both partners," the researchers wrote. "The burden of caring for a sick spouse, as well as being more attentive to a spouse's traits, would therefore be more burdensome to wives than to husbands, on average."
This finding may hold true now, but it could change in future generations, James Iveniuk, co-author of the study, told The Huffington Post.
"We don't quite know what to expect yet when the current generation of young people grow old," Iveniuk said. "It may be that they become more traditional, and this same pattern that we have seen will be seen again. However, it could also be the case that they will observe their parents' and grandparents' more traditional relationships and decide to change the pattern."
What do you think -- will a husband's health continue to have a greater impact on the marriage? Let us know what you think in the comments.