For 12 years, Brigham Young University assistant professor Jeremy Yorgason, Ph.D., and his colleagues tracked 1,217 married couples, randomly selected from around the United States. The participants ranged from 36 to 75 years old. Either the husbands or the wives had permanent physical conditions that restricted their ability to dress, bathe, eat, or work around the house. After comparing happiness levels before and after the disability, these researchers found that, more often than not, both husbands and wives who became disabled also became happier in their marriage, regardless of their age. Husbands whose wives were disabled became happier, while wives whose husbands were disabled experienced the same happiness levels as before the disability.
Researchers aren’t sure exactly why disability boosts marital happiness but suspect it revolves around increased couple interaction. “The numbers show that couples seem to come together when one of them experiences physical limitations,” says Yorgason. “This suggests disability is a two-way street, with some surprising pluses in addition to the minuses people ordinarily expect.”