A Study Suggests That Husbands Who Have Controlling Wives Live Longer and Are Healthier

Many of us grow up being told that a secret to a long, happy life is a happy marriage. For men, it turns out, this might not actually be the case. A study from Michigan State University (MSU) shows that men with controlling wives might actually live longer. That’s right – a wife’s nagging might actually benefit her husband. (1)

Evidence Suggests Husbands With Controlling Wives Will Live Longer

A national study done by MSU psychologists found that husbands with controlling wives are less likely to develop diabetes. In those that do, the onset is slower and the symptoms are managed much better. (1)

The researchers analyzed survey results from 1,228 married participants over five years. At the start of the study, the participants were 57 to 85 years old. At the end of the study, 389 had diabetes. (1)

What they found was that so-called “controlling wives” simply ‘nagged’ their husbands more about their health and behaviors. This was especially true if the husband already experienced some negative health complications. (1)

“The study challenges the traditional assumption that negative marital quality is always detrimental to health,” said Hui Liu, MSU associate professor of sociology and lead researcher on the study. “It also encourages family scholars to distinguish different sources and types of marital quality. Sometimes, nagging is caring.” (2)

Essentially, even though a wife’s nagging can be viewed as annoying and even oppressive by her husband, it might actually be saving his life. (1)

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It Doesn’t Go Both Ways

Unfortunately for women, an unhappy marriage has the opposite effect on their health. A strong, healthy marriage in which she feels loved and supportive keeps her body and mind strong and healthy. An unhappy marriage, however, increases her risk for diabetes. (1)

“Diabetes requires frequent monitoring that the wives could be prodding the husband to do, boosting his health but also increasing marital strain over time.” said Liu. (2)

The research shows that women may be more sensitive to men regarding the quality of the relationship. This means that if the marriage is strained, the wife will experience more stress and therefore negatively affect her physical health more than the man. (1)

Controlling Wives: There Is A Such Thing As “Too Much

An 11-year Danish study that followed 10,000 people also looked at nagging partners and their effect on their spouse. They found that too much nagging – from their partner but also from their kids – resulted in a 50% to a 100% increase in mortality risk. (3)

Just as with the women in the MSU study, this is because it is associated with high levels of stress, which has negative health outcomes for the body. (3)

The Bottom Line

So should men with “controlling wives” be grateful or concerned? The research shows both. If their wife is nagging them to come for a walk with them or asking them again if they remembered to take their medication, these are signs she cares. Over-the-top nagging about every little thing, however, doesn’t do anyone any good. Each member of the couple needs to know when and what to nag about and what they should let alone.

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  1.  Diabetes Risk and Disease Management in Later Life: A National Longitudinal Study of the Role of Marital Quality .” The Journals of Gerontology. Hui Liu, et al. May 23, 2016.
  2. Rocky marriages not always bad for your health.” MSU Today. May 26, 2016.
  3. Stressful social relations and mortality: a prospective cohort study.” BMJ Journals. Rikke Lund, et al.