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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2007 Sep;62(5):S315-22.

Impact of spouse vision impairment on partner health and well-being: a longitudinal analysis of couples.

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  • 1Institute for Health and Aging, San Francisco, CA 94118-0646, USA.



The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of older spouses' vision impairment on the health and well-being of their partners and to test for gender differences.


Participants were 418 older couples from the Alameda County Study. Vision impairment was assessed in 1994 with a 9-point scale assessing difficulty seeing in everyday situations; outcomes were assessed in 1999. Longitudinal analyses included multivariate statistical models adjusting for paired data and partners' own vision impairment, age, gender, chronic conditions, and financial problems. We include results on outcomes for partners' own vision impairment for comparative purposes. We assessed gender differences with interaction tests.


Spouse vision impairment negatively impacted partner depression, physical functioning, well-being, social involvement, and marital quality; these effects were not greatly different in magnitude from those associated with partners' own vision impairment. Three of four outcomes with significant gender differences evidenced stronger impacts of husbands' vision impairment on wives' well-being and marital quality than the reverse.


Spouses do not live in isolation; characteristics of one impact the other. Both treatment and rehabilitation programs should include spouses and other family members of visually impaired patients. Why wives appear more sensitive to their husbands' vision impairment is unclear and warrants further study.

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