Choice of partner affects health, study finds

January 16, 2013 by Elin Fugelsnes & Else Lie, The Research Council of Norway
Choice of partner affects health
New research shows that our partner’s education affects our health. Credit: Shutterstock

(Medical Xpress)—Individuals tend to choose partners of equal socio-economic status. This factor may also be significant in terms of health.

"Married and common-law couples often share similar attitudes, behaviour and levels of . Our study revealed that this tendency can exacerbate social inequality related to health," explains doctoral fellow, Sara Marie Nilsen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim.

Sara Marie Nilsen has examined the significance of differences in education and how this relates to the individual's subjective perception of his or her own health in general, and of in particular, among the nearly 19,000 Norwegian couples who participated in the Nord-Trøndelag (HUNT). HUNT is a very large longitudinal study carried out in Norway. Ms Nilsen's doctoral research project is funded under the Research Programme on Public Health (FOLKEHELSE) at the Research Council of Norway.

Lower education, poorer health

"Our findings show that spouses and partners often have a similar perception of their health status. Sharing the same level of education may be a factor behind this correlation. The highly educated are often healthier than people with lower levels of education," states Ms Nilsen.

However, her thesis also indicates that the individual's health is directly affected by the education of the partner. For example, individuals with a lower level of education will feel healthier if they live together with someone with a higher education.

"It is also turns out that partners with different levels of education share a fairly similar perception of their health," Sara Marie Nilsen explains.

Social inequality as a health factor

Social inequality is one of the FOLKEHELSE programme's four thematic priority areas. Research activities take as their point of departure the fact that the higher our social status, the better our health, and vice-versa. Factors such as income, occupation and education play a pivotal role in whether a person will develop cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic illness or the like.

Ms Nilsen has chosen education as a measure of socio-economic standing since educational background forms the basis for an individual's work life and subsequent level of income, and is also the key to social status.

Her findings indicate that the higher a couple's combined status, the healthier each of them will be. The opposite also holds true; the lower their combined status, the poorer their individual health.

Research on couples provides new insight

Two out of three Norwegians live together in relationships. It can be difficult to explain in health, especially for women, without taking into consideration the impact partners have on each other. Social position can also affect children's health.

Previously, health research has primarily focused on individual risk. Examining partners and spouses as a unit is a relatively new approach in this context.

"Health researchers would benefit from focusing more attention on the social contexts we live in, as couples, families and households. This is precisely where the majority of us spend most of our time," Ms Nilsen points out.

"Social inequalities in health have been, and remain, a sensitive topic. Researchers are apprehensive about amplifying the feeling of failure among those who are struggling to begin with," says Steinar Westin, professor of social medicine at NTNU.

"But it doesn't help to stick your head in the sand. We have to learn more about how these factors really play out in order to be able to address our problems and subsequently do something about it," he believes.

This article has been published in the scientific periodical BMC Public : http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/12/998/abstract

Explore further: Marriage and a high socioeconomic level improve health

Related Stories

Marriage and a high socioeconomic level improve health

April 10, 2012
People with a high socioeconomic level have been demonstrated to have better health than the rest of people. Other protective factors against chronic diseases are having higher education, having a job, and the per capita ...

Exploring how a parent's education can affect the mental health of their offspring

January 26, 2012
Could depression in adulthood be tied to a parent's level of education? A new study led by Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, a medical sociologist from McGill University, suggests this is the case.

Education levels in Asian American neighborhoods affect residents' health

November 8, 2012
Higher neighborhood education is associated with better self-rated health among Asian Americans who live in Asian ethnic neighborhoods, but this correlation between individual health and neighborhood education levels does ...

Lifelong gap in health between rich and poor set by age 20

June 8, 2011
Canadians who are less educated and have a lower income start out less healthy than their wealthier and better-educated compatriots, and remain so over the course of their lives.

How many US deaths are caused by poverty, low levels of education and other social factors?

June 16, 2011
How researchers classify and quantify causes of death across a population has evolved in recent decades. In addition to long-recognized physiological causes such as heart attack and cancer, the role of behavioral factors—including ...

Racial discrimination lessens benefits of higher socio-economic status (w/ Video)

June 14, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Racial discrimination could lessen the mental-health benefits usually associated with better socio-economic position for African-American men, finds a new study by Darrell L. Hudson, PhD, assistant professor ...

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.