Marriage Minutes: Couples Die From a Broken Heart; Happiness Is About Expectations A California couple recently died within four hours of each other, but according to research the proximity of passing is not that surprising. BY HITCHED EDITORS
When your expectations are surpassed, expect happiness to follow.
“ …Widows and widowers were at least 30% more likely to die of any cause in the first six months following a spouse’s death than those who hadn’t lost of a spouse.”
The following is a round-up of news items compiled by the Hitched editors during the week of August 14, 2014.
Dying From A Broken Heart Might Be Real
Last month, Don and Maxine Simpson, a couple from Bakersfield, CA, who had been married for 62 years passed away just four hours apart, according to their hometown paper The Bakersfield Californian. Maxine had been battling bladder cancer, and on July 14 Don broke his hip and entered the hospital after contracting pneumonia. On July 19th, Don had his bed moved next to Maxine's so the couple could be next to each other. On July 21, Maxine passed away at roughly 7 a.m. and just four hours later Don passed. While the local paper doesn't mention the cause of Don's death, it might have been from a broken heart.
In 2007, the University of Glasgow published a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, which looked at over 4,000 married couples aged 45 to 64 beginning in the early 1970s and found that, on average, widows and widowers were at least 30% more likely to die of any cause in the first six months following a spouse’s death than those who hadn’t lost of a spouse—and heart disorders were more likely to appear in the next five years. Another 2006 study titled, "Mortality after the Hospitalization of a Spouse" and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that the risk of death for men in which the researchers associated the death with a spouse's hospitalization was 22%; for women the risk was 16%. In this study, the researchers gathered data on over 300,000 couples and calculated the deaths which occurred within a year of their spouse's hospitalization.
There are many reasons why this heart break can have such an impact. Researchers speculate the causes can range anywhere from the physical stress caused by suffering (particularly to the heart, literally—and appropriately called Broken Heart Syndrome) to the co-dependency couples have relied upon for so many years, such as reminding their spouse to take medication.
Surprise! You're Happy
Pop quiz husbands: Would your wife be happier if you gave her flowers on your anniversary or randomly when you arrived home after reading this article? According to new happiness research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, happiness is more likely to result in the latter. What the researchers found after looking MRI scans was that they could predict the results of 18,420 participants using a mobile app based on a happiness model they created. In short, happiness is subjective, in that happiness appears when expectations are exceeded. So, if you went to a restaurant and were expecting a good meal and got one, you would be content; but not as happy as if you sat to eat a meal you weren't excited about and found you really liked it.
For married couples, this somewhat coincides with lots of other relationship research that suggests new experiences and doing novel things are what activate the brain circuits that were once firing during the romantic/courting phase of your relationship. If your date nights have become humdrum experiences, it's time to exceed your spouse's expectations with a surprise date night. The results will light up a smile and an MRI scanner.