Navigation Links
Spouse's Sickness Bodes Ill for Partner's Health
Date:2/10/2008

Stress of hospitalization may pose deadly burden

SUNDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- It's called the "widow" or "widower" effect, and doctors have long been familiar with this curious but very real phenomenon: When a husband or wife dies, there's a greater likelihood that the surviving spouse will pass soon afterward.

Now, researchers are gaining a better understanding of the forces at work, realizing problems often start with the hospitalization of a spouse.

New findings suggest that having a husband or wife who needs to be admitted to a hospital with a serious illness poses health risks for the partner. The culprit: The stress and upheaval the partner experiences while enduring the hospitalization of an ailing husband or wife.

"It's not like your spouse's sickness somehow magically makes you worse," said Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School's Department of Health Care Policy. "We believe it works by imposing some kind of burden."

To unravel the connection, Christakis and co-researcher Paul D. Allison, a University of Pennsylvania statistician, examined records of more than a half million couples who were in enrolled in Medicare from 1993 through 2001. Their findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrate the ripple effect of a spouse's hospitalization -- across various illnesses -- on the partner's health.

"What this work shows is that illness in one person -- in a spouse -- can affect the health, the mortality, of another person," Christakis explained. "And this, in turn, means taking better care of someone who's sick not only benefits the sick person, but also benefits other people, such as their spouse."

In the United States, at least 44 million adults, including spouses, provide care for a loved one, the National Alliance for Caregiving estimates. Yet, few of these individuals are adequately prepared to cope with the rigors of caring for another person or the toll it can take on their health, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Overall, Christakis' study found that a spouse's hospitalization boosted the risk of a man's death by 22 percent compared with the death of a spouse. A husband's hospitalization increased a woman's death risk by 16 percent.

Some diseases posed more of a burden than others. For example, a woman's hospitalization for stroke, congestive heart failure or hip fracture raised her husband's death risk by 6 percent, 12 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Similarly, a man's hospitalization for colon cancer did not significantly influence his wife's death risk, but other diseases did have a major impact.

A spouse's hospitalization for dementia proved most stressful, raising risk of death 22 percent for men and 28 percent for women, Christakis said. "In fact," he added, "we show that having a demented spouse is as bad for you as having a dead spouse."

Some diseases are deadly, but don't pose as much of a burden on the caregiver, be it physical, psychological, financial or some combination of these, he explained.

The study also identified certain time frames during which caregivers are particularly vulnerable, including immediately after a hospitalization and again three to six months into the illness.

Suzanne Mintz, president and co-founder of the National Family Caregivers Association, said the study offers additional proof that the stress of caring for a family member can have negative health consequences.

"The findings should frighten family caregivers," she said, "but more importantly, hopefully, help them give priority status to their own health needs."

Spousal family caregivers' risk of depression is six times greater than that of non-caregivers, Mintz noted. And, they are less likely to reach out for help, she said. To protect their health, Mintz urges family caregivers to spread the work load.

"Caregiving is much more than a one-person job, especially when both the family caregiver and the care recipient are elderly," she said. "Often, spousal caregivers do not want to ask for or take help from their grown children, but that really is the first place we should all turn."

More information

To learn more, visit the National Family Caregivers Association.



SOURCES: Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., professor, medical sociology, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Suzanne Mintz, co-founder and president, National Family Caregivers Association, Kensington, Md.; National Alliance for Caregiving, Bethesda, Md.; Family Caregiver Alliance, San Francisco; Feb. 16, 2006, New England Journal of Medicine


'/>"/>
Copyright©2008 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Seeing our spouses more negatively might be a positive
2. Family counseling improves lives of patients and spouses coping with prostate cancer
3. Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Norris Cotton Cancer Center Bring Together 2008 Presidential Spouses, Doctors, Researchers and Advocates at Leadership Summit on Breast Cancer
4. Head of Pastors Spouses to Challenge Women at Saddlebacks Global Summit on AIDS and the Church
5. Spouses often mirror each others health habits
6. Cancer patients, spouses report similar emotional distress, U-M study finds
7. Cancer patients, spouses report similar emotional distress, U-M study finds
8. How shyness and other normal human traits became sickness
9. International Database Seeks to Boost Treatment of Altitude Sickness
10. Pennsylvania Gov. Rendell: $10 Million Partnership With Harrisburg Venture Capital Firm Boosts PAs Life Sciences Industry
11. National Business Group on Health to Hold Press Conference to Announce Partnership to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Spouse's Sickness Bodes Ill for Partner's Health
(Date:5/27/2016)... ... May 27, 2016 , ... Each year ... complementary medicine. Allison Outerbridge is this year’s Life University winner of ... at the university’s Student Leadership Awards ceremony. , Outerbridge is approaching her last ...
(Date:5/26/2016)... ... 26, 2016 , ... W.S. Badger Co. Inc ., the maker of ... When Work Works Award for its use of effective workplace strategies to increase business ... project administered by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human ...
(Date:5/26/2016)... ... May 26, 2016 , ... Connor Sports, ... as a partner for the Tamika Catchings Legacy Tour that will commemorate ... leader in hardwood basketball surfaces in all forms and levels of the game, Connor ...
(Date:5/26/2016)... ... May 26, 2016 , ... There are nearly 14.5 million ... million cancer survivors worldwide. On Sunday, June 5, 2016, communities around the world will ... Survivors Day®. , National Cancer Survivors Day® is an annual worldwide Celebration of ...
(Date:5/26/2016)... ... May 26, 2016 , ... An April Gallup survey found ... The 550 employees of Sun Health Senior Living (SHSL) may not share ... their doctor and prescription copays for the year, while holding the line on increasing ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:5/24/2016)... LONDON , May 24, 2016 ... erfüllt beide primären Endpunkte ... und Überlegenheit in ‚ausgezeichneter plus guter ... aufsteigenden Colons    ,      (Logo: ... B.V. gab heute neue positive Daten von der ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... Mass. , May 24, 2016  NxStage Medical, ... technology company focused on advancing renal care, today announced ... plans to participate in the following schedule of investor ... be made available at http://ir.nxstage.com/ . ... Jefferies Healthcare Conference NY, NY           Friday, June ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... HONG KONG , May 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... primer stent de doble terapia del mundo, introduce ... fístula arteriovenosa. OrbusNeich, una compañía global ... cambian las vidas, ha expandido su cartera incluyendo ... catéteres balón JADE™ y Scoreflex™ PTA son los ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: