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Couples become more similar as they age

May 24, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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As it turns out, we don’t go it alone.

New research is finding that as people age in relationships, over time they grow to become more like their partners.

Knowing about the health of the patient’s partner assist doctors with that patient’s treatment as symptoms in one could indicate similar problems for the other.

"Aging is something that couples do together," says Shannon Mejia, a postdoctoral research fellow involved in relationship research at the University of Michigan, to NPR. "You’re in an environment together, and you’re appraising that environment together, and making decisions together."

Mejia and her colleagues studied 1,568 older couples across the U.S. who were married for less than 20 years and more than 50 years as part of a larger dataset of income, employment, family and health. In couples married longer, they found similar kidney function, total cholesterol levels and grip strength.

Researchers analyzed the couples by age, race and education. They found people marry people with similar backgrounds, which could explain some of the similarities. The data couldn’t account for the length of the relationship.  

Mejia says these similarities may be created over a lifetime together. Similar research on partner studies has found the effects of aging are physical and mental, too. That means people in relationships don’t age or alone. They’re influenced by those around them, meaning doctors need to treat the patient and the partner. 

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