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J Aging Health. 2004 Jun;16(3):398-425.

The effect of spousal mental and physical health on husbands' and wives' depressive symptoms, among older adults: longitudinal evidence from the Health and Retirement Survey.

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  • 1Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA.



To estimate the effect of spousal depressive symptoms and physical health on respondents' depressive symptoms in a national sample of older married couples.


We used data on 5,035 respondent husbands and wives from the 1992 and 1994 waves of the Health and Retirement Survey. Multivariate regression models were estimated to examine the impact of spousal depressive symptoms and physical health on respondents' depressive symptoms.


Adjusting for respondent mental and physical health and sociodemographic traits, having a spouse with more depressive symptoms was associated with significantly higher follow-up depressive symptoms in the respondent (p < .001). Controlling for spousal depressive symptoms, a decline in the spouses' physical health was associated with a significant reduction in respondent depressive symptoms (p < .05).


Our findings suggest that health care providers treating older adults should be sensitive to the possibility that spouses may be affected when clients suffer poor mental or physical health.

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