Men married to smart women live longer


From The Sunday Times

October 18, 2009

Swedish scientists have discovered that long life and good health have nothing to do with a man’s education and everything to do with his wife’s

Shane Watson

There is a lingering suspicion among girls (as the unpopularity of science subjects demonstrates) that boys don’t value cleverness as an essential quality in a life partner. Given a choice between gorgeous or brainy, there is no guarantee they’ll do the right thing, because men think they’re clever enough for two. Well, it turns out they’re wrong. Swedish scientists have discovered that long life and good health have nothing to do with a man’s education and everything to do with his wife’s. Men married to smart women live longer — simple.

However, before you ring up your girlfriend to tell her that the man who left her for a bimbo will drop dead of brain atrophy, this is not a victory for women’s intelligence in general. It would be nice if our stimulating observations about FlashForward and the Tory agenda were keeping our men alert and full of life. Unfortunately, it’s simply our skill at processing advice about healthy lifestyles, and passing it on. All it boils down to is that “educated” married women have long since banned their men from eating pork pies at every other meal. They instinctively know about the importance of breakfast, the downside of dips (men think hummus is a diet aid) and the virtues of Green & Black’s 85% (the chocolate that doesn’t count). The Carla effect, in other words, is alive and well beyond the boundaries of the Elysée Palace.

Still, this seems like a narrow reading of how a woman’s intelligence affects her husband’s health. Cholesterol-watching is only the tip of the iceberg. On top of that, there’s the whole good exercise, bad exercise battle. (Men will only do exercise that results in a calf injury, and only in binges, so they are grey with exhaustion every day for a week, then laid up for the rest of the month; we are constantly lobbying for yoga.) There’s risk-avoidance training, too. For example, the struggle to prevent men walking to work in winter with sopping wet hair, wearing only a shirt; or, my personal favourite, reminding them not to shut the tea towel in the oven door, because that’s what causes all the black smoke and flames.

For some of us, the challenge of keeping our menfolk fit and well goes way beyond encouraging them to lay off the Player’s Navy Cut. Since being married to my husband, I have had to point out that swallowing chewing gum is not normal, let alone healthy. Ditto eating food that has been showered with glass. Lighting a fire in a tent. Cooking topless. Dialling while pedalling. Smoking over an open car bonnet (just kidding, but only just). The point is, without a female in the house, most men would come to a sticky end, with or without the daily sausage sandwich.

So what’s in it for us? Back in the days when the goal was to marry a rich man, at least you could look forward to a bit of his’n’hers indulgence. Now it’s all checking the salt content of the bran flakes and pushing selenium. You can’t help feeling a bit short-changed.

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