In sickness and in health: Married couples often suffer from the same medical conditions

SENDAI, Japan — Married couples unsurprisingly share many of the same interests and even lifestyle habits. Now, a new study reveals husbands and wives around the world often share the same medical histories too.

Researchers from Tohoku University discovered that married couples display a high degree of similarity when it comes to their body shapes, blood pressure, and even the diseases they develop — such as diabetes.

“When it comes to marriage, the adage ‘birds of a feather flock together’ is relatively true,” study authors write in a university release.

People seek out others who remind them of themselves

Previous studies show that people tend to gravitate towards others in similar social circles, educational backgrounds, and even similar weights. Scientists call this assertive mating, which means spouses are often genetically similar to their significant other.

In the new study, the team examined nearly 5,400 couples in Japan and over 28,000 living in the Netherlands. The data on these individuals comes from the Tohoku Medical Megabank Project and the Lifelines study, respectively.

In both countries, the study finds couples frequently shared similar lifestyle habits and physical traits. These similarities included smoking and drinking habits, weight, waist circumference, and body mass index.

When the study authors delved deeper into their lives, they discovered couples also had very similar blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides levels. In turn, these husbands and wives had many related incidents of hypertension, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

It’s not about your genes, it’s about lifestyle choices

Surprisingly, the study also finds these similarities have very little to do with couples sharing many of the same genes. Instead, researchers say these individuals more often than not share lifestyle choices — leading to similar health outcomes.

Study authors encourage married couples to seek out healthcare guidance as a pair and also suggest that husbands and wives start up a little competition between each other when it comes to improving their health.

The findings appear in the journal Atherosclerosis.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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