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Why You Catch Your Partner's Plague Even When You Sleep On the Couch


Think sleeping on the couch will protect you from his sniffling and sneezing? Try as you might, chances are you're going to get sick—and experience the same nasty symptoms.

Couples have similar immune systems, according to a new study published in Nature Immunology. In the study, researchers analyzed the immune systems of 670 people over three years. While they found tons of variation among most participants' immune systems, cohabitating couples with a child had 50 percent less variation than random strangers being compared to each other.

Here's why: The makeup of your immune system isn't set in stone at birth. (Which is why eating certain foods can boost your immunity.) In fact, only 25 percent of the variation in your immune system is genetic, says Adrian Liston, Ph.D., a researcher with VIB Translational Immunology Lab who co-led the research. That leaves 75 percent to be influenced by everything from your environment to your workout habits.

Now think about all the factors that could change your immune system: diet, alcohol, smoking, exercise, pollution, and stress. "A lot of these factors will be similar in couples since they share an environment," says Liston. After all, once you and your guy are roomies, your diets align (you're likely eating meals together); you're waking up and going to sleep at similar times, and you may even head out for weekend runs side by side.

To top it off, living together and, you know, making out means you and your partner share loads of bacteria. "Eighty million bacteria are transferred in a single kiss," says Liston. Kids bring even more bacteria to the table, so the similarity effects are strongest in couples with young children, says Liston.

The good news: The research indicates that you and your guy will respond to illnesses in similar ways. So make sure you both memorize these 9 ways to beat a cold in 24 hours. If you both learn to excel at warding off sickness, you both stand to benefit. #CoupleGoals.


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