Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation Contributor

Is it true that like attracts like? When it comes to mental health, it seems the answer is yes.

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry this week sheds light on the influence of psychiatric disorders on relationships and mating.

The study from the famous Karolinska Insitute in Sweden examined over 700,000 men and women with psychiatric diagnoses and compared them to over three million people without psychiatric diagnoses.

They measured marital resemblance for psychiatric disorders. Marital resemblance is the degree to which we marry people who resemble us in some characteristic or another.

For instance, marital resemblance is positively correlated for personality, height and weight – so we have a positive tendency to marry people who are similar to us on these characteristics.

Debate has raged for years around the influence of psychiatric disorders on relationships, and the genetic risks for offspring, but no one has ever collected data on such a large number of people.

Partnering up

The Swedish study had a number of key findings. First up, people with a psychiatric diagnosis were less likely to be married. When they did marry, the chance of them marrying someone else with a psychiatric diagnosis was two to three times higher than for people without a psychiatric diagnosis.

There was also a correlation between specific diagnoses. People with disorders that developed at a young age, like autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, had a tendency to marry people with the same diagnosis. As did people with disorders that had particularly severe symptoms, such as schizophrenia.

People with depression and generalised anxiety disorder were also more likely to partner with people with psychiatric disorders, but the correlation between diagnoses for these was lower.

The results held for men and women. Similar correlations weren’t found for people with non-psychiatric medical disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, diabetes (types 1 and 2) and rheumatoid arthritis. People with these disorders showed little or no increase in the chances of being married to someone else with a medical disorder of the same, or any sort.

As with most good science, the study raises more questions than it answers.

Laws of attraction

The laws of attraction are complex.

Evolutionary theory says we mate with those who give us the highest chances of surviving and reproducing. Social theories tell us we tend to marry people we are exposed to and familiar with. Most people marry someone who lives in close proximity to them. Most are introduced through friends or shared experiences. Work, school or university are the commonest places people meet their spouses. We mate who we meet.

We also have a strong tendency to marry people who are similar to us – marital resemblance holds to some degree for religious beliefs, politics and other characteristics.

Physical attraction is complex and affects us consciously and unconsciously in many ways. In terms of influencing relationship choices, as the saying goes beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s also a bit like the market economy. We marry those who we can “afford”, not necessary the most “expensive”.

In terms of helping us understand the laws of attraction, this study probably doesn’t add much.

What this tells us

It might be that the correlations are simply due to mixing in similar circles. So people with a psychiatric diagnosis are far more likely to meet others in the same boat, either in hospital, via support groups or online communities.

It might be related to reduced stigma; perhaps people with mental illness are more accepting of others with mental illness. They understand the problems and so might be less judgemental.

There might also be an element of contagion; where one partner influences the other. If one spouse drinks alcohol excessively, this might have an impact on their partner’s drinking, or their partner’s mental health in other domains.

The possible explanations are endless, and as the authors point out, the limitations of a study such as this are significant.

If anything, this study highlights the complexity of mental illness. Psychiatric disorders result from a mix of our biology, our past experiences and our current circumstances. They are not simply the result of pathology.

They affect most aspects of our lives including our personality, how we live, whom we meet, how we work, how we respond to others…and who we marry.

High quality studies such as this give us a tiny glimpse into our lives, but rather than answering some of the great existential questions, they mostly just add to the list of things we want to understand.

Authors: The Conversation Contributor

Read more http://theconversation.com/when-it-comes-to-mental-health-like-attracts-like-55381

Writers Wanted

Racing 2-year-old horses is lucrative, but is it worth the risks?


How to Sanitize Cloth Masks Properly


The Conversation


Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.   HADLEY: I was just referring to this story from the Courier Mail, which you’ve probably caught up with today about t...

Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison - avatar Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Tips to find the best plastic manufacturing supplier for your needs

Plastics are very much an important part of all of our lives, but they’re particularly valuable to a wide variety of industries that rely on their production for their operations. The industries, ...

News Co - avatar News Co

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion