One stat that Cormac read out on Tuesday's Drivetime sounded counter-intuitive, but it is apparently based on sound research. This is a conclusion from the research:
"People who live with a spouse or cohabit with a partner have lower blood sugar levels, which can reduce their risk of Type-2 Diabetes, even if they don’t get along with their spouse or their partner."
Even if they don’t get along with their spouse or their partner. How does that work? To try to make sense of the research, Cormac called upon the services of author and chartered psychologist, Allison Keating. And Allison revealed that she was somewhat taken back by some of the findings:
"I suppose one part of it surprised me actually, in terms of couples who actually weren’t happy with each other, because I suppose it makes sense, doesn’t it, that when you’re married, sometimes you’ll, you’ll kind of encourage, you know, that you eat well, you’ll keep up doctors’ appointments, so I think that aspect of it really probably has a big impact on this research."
It’s clear from the conversation that Cormac has done his own research, as he wonders why the niggling little things that couples fight about, like leaving the toilet seat up (or down), could be better for us than living a single life, carefree and able to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it. Allison sticks to the science in her reply:
"I think in relationships often where people are satisfied, there is a friendship there and that’s a kind of a key part that makes people feel satisfied and when you know someone’s intentions are good, and you know that they are trying to – I think we give each other the benefit of the doubt, don’t we? And that kind of buffers from the stresses and strains of life that we experience."
For those of us living on our own – free to do whatever we want, as Cormac puts it – there is no such buffer:
"So living on your own, I think, there can be a lot of loneliness and loneliness is a major predictor of, you know, many health aspects."
Cohabiting, then, has the benefit that comes with two people minding each other, Allison says. Your partner reminding you about that check-up, you reminding them that they really shouldn’t eat that second chocolate Kimberley. That sort of checking-up and checking-in has a positive impact on health.
The study was conducted on people between the ages of 50 and 89 and Allison believes it’s a good news story (and we could certainly do with more of them, couldn’t we?):
"It’s kind of a good news story, isn't it, that, you know, relationships are very kind of – they futureproof your health and it’s something that we can all actively work upon."
What about those niggling little things that couples fight about, though? Cormac wants to know if there’s any way couples can get past them and get on better with each other. Allison has some interesting ideas for the couples who just can’t help noticing the mildly-irritating behaviour of their partner:
"I think one of the best things you can do in a relationship is to give each other a bit of room to be normal and human and annoying and the bring in a bit of funniness to kind of say, 'Hey, is there any chance you could change that?’ So that, you know, it is possible to change those behaviours that do actually get on your nerves."
Lessons there for Cormac – and all of us – to take on board as we navigate our relationships. You can hear Cormac’s full conversation with Allison by clicking above.