"Older husbands and wives in better marriages are more satisfied with their lives," said Vicki Freedman, a research professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
"But overall life satisfaction for an unhappily married man depends on how his wife describes their relationship. If she describes their marriage as higher quality, his life satisfaction is buoyed, even if he gives the marriage a less glowing assessment," said Freedman, a co-author with Rutgers University sociologist Deborah Carr.
The research is among the first to examine the influence of his and her marriage appraisals on psychological well-being among older couples.
"Marital quality is an important buffer against the health-depleting effects of later-life stressors such as care-giving, and a critical resource as couples manage difficult decisions regarding their care in later life," Carr said.
Freedman and Carr analyzed 2009 data from a sample of 394 couples who were part of the ISR Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a national panel study of a representative sample of US families. At least one spouse in each couple was aged 60 or older.
They found that life satisfaction and momentary happiness did not differ significantly by gender. Both husbands and wives, on average, rated their general life satisfaction as 5 out of 6 and happiness very close to 5.
They also found that husbands rated their marriages slightly more positively than wives, on average.

"For both husbands and wives, being in a better-rated marriage was linked to greater life satisfaction and happiness," Carr said.
"But wives' assessments of the marriage are more important in some respects than their husbands' reports," she said.
The study was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

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