Why Older Couples Laugh More

Why Older Couples Laugh More

Time heals all wounds, and if the hard times don’t tear you apart, they could pull you together.

Bickering as a couple is natural. Some do it more than others but few pass through the years without a harsh word spoken between them. The good news is that as we age, we tend to become less aggressive towards each other.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley analyzed videotaped conversations of 87 middle-aged and older heterosexual couples. It was found that older couples display more humor and tenderness towards one another.

The couples participating in the study had been married anywhere from 15 to 35 years, and had their emotional interactions tracked over the course of 13 years. Defensiveness and criticism deteriorated over time, across the board.

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“Our findings shed light on one of the great paradoxes of late life,” said the study’s senior author Robert Levenson, a UC Berkeley psychology professor. “Despite experiencing the loss of friends and family, older people in stable marriages are relatively happy and experience low rates of depression and anxiety. Marriage has been good for their mental health.”

Did the husbands and wives differ? Yes. Wives, it was found, were generally more emotionally expressive than their husbands, (not a big surprise). As they aged, they tended to display more domineering behavior and less affection, (also not a surprise!). But negative behaviors decreased, and it also decreased for the men.

So, if you can get through that disagreement about cheese, you could eventually see greener pastures.

“These results provide behavioral evidence that…as we age, we become more focused on the positives in our lives,” said the study’s co-lead author Alice Verstaen, a Ph.D student.

Glass half-empty or half-full, may it always be interesting.

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