According to a recent study by the Touch and Emotion Laboratory (TEL) at DePauw University, people who smile the biggest in photographs when they are young are more likely to stay married later in life. The frowners were more likely to divorce.
The Greencastle, Indiana researchers sent emails to about 18,000 college graduates and used the emails that sent back a completed online questionnaire and a picture from their high school yearbook. Some of the questions asked about their marriage, such as if they were in a committed relationship and if they had ever divorced. The researchers eventually used 225 women and 124 men in their study. They had graduated between 1948 and 2005 with ages ranging from 21 to 81 years.
The first study looked at old college yearbook photos and rated smile intensity from 1-10. The scoring was based on the strength of the muscles that pull up on the mouth and that create wrinkles around the eyes. Based on the smile intensity score the researchers evaluated the biggest smiles and the most downturned frowns.
The researchers found a surprising correlation: the less people smiled, the more likely they were to later divorce. The researchers found that none of the people in the top 10 of smile strength had divorced while the ones with the smallest smiles had divorced almost 25 percent of the time.
They did a second study where they asked people over the age of 65 to show pictures from their childhood. The average age in the pictures was 10 years old. Again, the researchers found that only 11 percent of the biggest smilers had divorced while 31 percent of the frowners had ended at least one marriage.
A psychologist who led the study proposes several possible explanations:
• It could be that smiling represents a “positive disposition towards life.”
• Perhaps smiling people attract other happy people and two happier people are more likely to have a long-lasting marriage.
• Maybe people who smile more often attract more friends and a larger support network that makes it more likely they will keep a marriage healthier.