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Research Shows Being Married for Decades Might Alter Your Physiology

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Being married for decades doesn't just mean you share family, a home, and years of memories and inside jokes—according to new research, you share a bunch of physiological similarities too.

In a study of 1,568 married couples across the U.S., University of Michigan postdoctoral research fellow Shannon Mejia found that as couples age together, they become more biologically similar. Mejia and her team looked at health indicators from couples married either less than 20 years or more than 50 years, and presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, as reported by the Science of Us. They found impressive similarities in couples who have been together for decades—namely in kidney function, cholesterol levels, and grip strength (which is a key predictor of mortality).

Researchers have already determined that simply being in a relationship might help lower your risks of dementia and heart disease. In the case of this study, Mejia hypothesized two different explanations: mate selection (people tend to select a mate similar in race, education, and age) or shared experience (your health as a result of leading similar lifestyles), according to Science of Us.

You may see your health as a totally individual thing; you take the time to eat healthy, hit the gym, and don't smoke or drink too much, and you're in the clear, right? But health is actually less individualized. (Although doing all those things will seriously cut your cancer risk.) Turns out, people in groups are more similar to one another than a random person with no social or geographical ties, Mejia told Science of Us. Her mission, then, is focusing on couples and how their health affects each other—for better or for worse. It's worth nothing that this is just the initial presentation—Mejia says more nuances and information from the data will be examined in the full study once it's published.

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