The Importance of Gender in the Relationship between Type of Chronic Conditions and Spouse's Depressive Symptoms

Mieke B. Thomeer, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Chronic conditions of one spouse negatively impact the mental health of the other spouse, and there is some evidence that chronic conditions harm wife’s mental health more than husband’s. Little is known regarding how different types of conditions influence spouse’s depressive symptoms nor whether this depends on gender. I analyze the Health and Retirement Study using Actor-Partner Interdependence Models. Lung disease and stroke are the most detrimental for the spouse's mental health. Lung disease, heart disease, and diabetes impact spouse's depressive symptoms similarly regardless of whether the husband or wife has the condition. But a husband's stroke increases his spouse's depressive symptoms initially whereas a wife's stroke increases her spouse's depressive symptoms over time. While marriage has been understood as an important resource for the chronically ill, this study demonstrates the cost of chronic conditions for the spouse and that this cost is higher for some chronic conditions than others.

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 Presented in Session P5. Adult Health and Mortality