Academic journal article Family Relations

A Dyadic Examination of Daily Health Symptoms and Emotional Well-Being in Late-Life Couples*

Academic journal article Family Relations

A Dyadic Examination of Daily Health Symptoms and Emotional Well-Being in Late-Life Couples*

Article excerpt

Abstract:This study investigated the link between daily health symptoms and spousal emotional well-being in a sample of 96 older dyads. Higher negative mood and lower positive mood were associated with spousal symptoms in couples wherein husbands or wives reported higher average levels of symptoms. For wives, partner effects were moderated by husbands' marital satisfaction and illness severity. Specifically, higher husband marital satisfaction and illness severity were associated with higher negative mood and lower positive mood for wives on days where husbands reported higher symptom levels. In their work with later-life families, practitioners and educators should address long-term and daily health-related relationship stressors.

Key Words: health, aging, dyads, marriage, daily diary, longitudinal.

(ProQuest Information and Learning: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

One potential consequence of age-related declines in health and physical functioning is a decrease in emotional well-being (Meeks, Murrell, & Mehl, 2000). As health declines, depression and negative affect tend to increase, whereas life satisfaction and positive affect tend to decrease. These associations exist contemporaneously (i.e., in cross-sectional studies; Vilhjalmsson, 1998), across several days (Larsen & Kasimatis, 1991; Watson, 1988), across months (Aneshensel, Frerichs, & Huba, 1984; Meeks et al., 2000), and over the course of years (Heidrich & Powwattana, 2004). Additionally, physical health problems affect emotional well-being for adults of various ages and for both men and women (Aneshensel et al., 1984; Meeks et al.; Vilhjalmsson).

Most investigations of the relationship between health and well-being have focused on the associations between health and emotional well-being of individuals. However, individuals with health problems are typically involved in a variety of relationships (see Patterson & Garwick, 1994; Rolland & Walsh, 2005). In couple relationships, the effects of health problems of one spouse can influence the emotional well-being of the other spouse (e.g., Bigatti & Cronan, 2002). Although macrolinks between spousal health and marital relationships have been examined longitudinally over a number of years (Booth & Johnson, 1994), few investigators have explored the microprocesses involved in couple relationships when one spouse is sick. The purpose of the current study was to explore the daily associations of health symptoms and spousal affect for couples in later life, as well as to examine how long-term stable characteristics moderate this relationship.

Influence of Illness on Spousal Well-Being

A number of studies have examined how the stressors of an illness can influence spousal well-being. Some researchers have suggested that illness may negatively influence spousal physical and mental health in non-care providing situations (Bigatti & Cronan, 2002). The influence of illness on spousal well-being is also supported by research on detrimental effects of caregiving for a spouse with physical and mental chronic illnesses (Schulz, Visintainer, & Williamson, 1990). Different mechanisms may be involved for spousal caregivers, as opposed to persons whose spouse does not require assistance with activities of daily living. Specifically, caregivers likely have additional strain from the tasks related to caring for a sick loved one. It is not surprising, then, that caregivers often experience psychological stress (for a review, see Schulz et al.). Longitudinal studies of spousal caregiving have indicated a positive association between illness and spousal reports of depression and anxiety over various spans of time, ranging from weeks to years (Beach, Schulz, Yee, & Jackson, 2000; Cannuscio et al., 2002; Grunfeld et al., 2004; Jang, clay, Roth, Haley, & Mittelman, 2004).

Whether considering spousal caregiving, which is more likely to occur in late life, or the effects of illness on noncaregiving spouses, we are not aware of any investigations of daily influences of symptoms on spousal well-being. …

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