We may choose partners who have similar lifespans to us, says new study

07 March 2019 - 12:33 By AFP Relaxnews
New research suggests we may unconsciously choose a partner with a similar risk of disease to us.
New research suggests we may unconsciously choose a partner with a similar risk of disease to us.
Image: iStock/AleksandarNakic

New UK research has found that when looking for love, we might unconsciously select a partner who has a similar risk of illnesses to us, such as high blood pressure or heart disease, and therefore also a similar life expectancy.

Carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, the new study used data from the UK Biobank study, a large long-term study which includes genomic data on more than half a million UK residents aged between 37 and 73 years of age.

After analysing information taken from the parents of couples, the team found that the in-laws shared genetic risk factors for diseases and a similar lifespan.

Moreover, the similarities found were too great to be coincidental.

The researchers say that the findings, published in the journal Heredity, suggest that without even realising, people choose a partner who shares the same disease risks as them, helping to explain why long-term couples often suffer from the same health problems later in life and have similar life expectancies.

However, as many illnesses are not visible when most people meet and choose their romantic partner, the teams add that the findings might also be due to our choosing a mate with shared lifestyle factors that are genetically linked to disease.

For example, if both couples engage in the same health behaviours, such as smoking, or healthy habits, such as maintaining a healthy weight, then they are more likely to also share the same diseases in later life and therefore also a similar life expectancy.

"Our study suggests that humans tend to select partners for behavioural or physical traits that are genetically related to disease and longevity. Understanding what traits these are will require new and long-term studies that follow hundreds of thousands of couples from the moment they meet until later in life when they develop disease," commented co-author Professor Albert Tenesa.