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Physical and emotional health of older couples linked for better or worse, study finds
Date:5/4/2011

functional limitations in both spouses.

"When people are depressed, they tend to want to stay at home but that causes a spouse to stay home more too," says Hoppmann. "That's a problem, because when older adults stop being active going for walks, socializing, shopping they risk losing that functional ability. It's that old saying, 'use it or lose it.'"

"These findings help to illuminate the often vicious cycle between depressive symptoms and our physical abilities," Hoppmann adds, noting that associations remained after controlling for individual (age, education, cognition) and spousal covariates (marriage duration, number of children) and did not differ between women and men.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the relationship between depressive symptoms were slightly stronger in couples than some individuals, suggesting that a spouse's physical or emotional health can have a greater impact on their partner's health than their own in some cases.

"Being married for a long time is a very specific situation, it really ties your lives together," says Hoppmann, whose previous research has explored happiness in older couples. "These findings show just how interdependent, emotionally and physically, long-term couples can become."

Hoppmann says the findings point towards a greater need for holistic healthcare approaches. "This interdependence suggests that we cannot simply focus on individual patients, while disregarding the major impacts their illnesses can have on the people in their lives," she says, noting studies have shown caregivers to be at a greater risk for mental and physical health problems.

The researchers which include Anita Hibbert, a graduate student in UBC Dept. of Psychology, and Prof. Denis Gerstorf of Pennsylvania State University say further studies are required to determine whether these spousal associations are specific to long-term married couples and whether they generalize to aging B
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Contact: Basil Waugh
basil.waugh@gmail.com
604-822-2048
University of British Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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