Sweethearts share patterns of life satisfaction

Feb 09, 2007

People’s long-term satisfaction with their lives often parallels that of their spouse, says a University of Toronto researcher in a study that deals a blow to theories that individual happiness depends mainly on genetic disposition.

Ulrich Schimmack of the University of Toronto at Mississauga’s psychology department and Richard Lucas of the University of Michigan studied the similarity in life satisfaction of more than 800 German married couples. They found that individuals’ reports of increased or decreased life satisfaction closely matched those of their spouses over a period of 21 years.

The study is based on annual assessments of satisfaction in more than 10,000 households and will soon appear in the first issue of The Journal of Applied Social Science Studies (Schmollers Jahrbuch).

Results show that spouses are similar in all three components of life satisfaction – in the high variable component where satisfaction changes from year to year, in the changing component that produces gradual changes over time and in the stable component that does not change over long time intervals.

“Recent research has proposed that individual differences in overall happiness are largely determined by an internal set-point that people return to after being influenced by outside circumstances,” explained Schimmack. “But this research suggests external determinants of life satisfaction are more powerful than previously thought.”

“If we still hold to the theory that genetics account for an individual’s happiness ‘norm,’” he said, “then these results challenge behaviour genetics assumptions that assume we mate randomly and imply that people somehow manage to pick spouses that are highly genetically similar to themselves.”

Source: University of Toronto

Explore further: Mothers don't speak so clearly to their babies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genes play a key part in the recipe for a happy country

Oct 30, 2014

Why are the Danes naturally more cheerful than the Brits, and why are we in turn more upbeat than the French? Research presented as part of this year's ESRC Festival of Social Sciences shows us that the recipe behind a happy ...

Recommended for you

Mothers don't speak so clearly to their babies

Jan 23, 2015

People have a distinctive way of talking to babies and small children: We speak more slowly, using a sing-song voice, and tend to use cutesy words like "tummy". While we might be inclined to think that we ...

Explainer: What is sexual fluidity?

Jan 23, 2015

Sexual preferences are not set in stone and can change over time, often depending on the immediate situation the individual is in. This has been described as sexual fluidity. For example, if someone identifies as heterosexual but th ...

Lucky charms: When are superstitions used most?

Jan 23, 2015

It might be a lucky pair of socks, or a piece of jewelry; whatever the item, many people turn to a superstition or lucky charm to help achieve a goal. For instance, you used a specific avatar to win a game and now you see ...

Low-income boys fare worse in wealth's shadow

Jan 22, 2015

Low-income boys fare worse, not better, when they grow up alongside more affluent neighbors, according to new findings from Duke University. In fact, the greater the economic gap between the boys and their neighbors, the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.