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J Nerv Ment Dis. 1984 Jan;172(1):21-5.

Interaction of life events and symptoms in psychiatric patient and nonpatient married couples.


Many studies have related life events to various symptoms, but there has been little effort to examine how life events and symptoms experienced by a spouse might contribute to health change in the partner. On 3 bimonthly occasions, 115 husbands and wives completed the Schedule of Recent Experiences and a Symptom Checklist. In 40 of the couples, husbands were psychiatric outpatients, and in 75 they were nonpatients. Among nonpatient couples, symptoms in either partner were significantly predicted by the level of each one's own life events (especially undesirable events) and by the levels of symptoms in the spouse during the preceding 2 months. Among couples in which the husband was a patient, the most important predictor of symptoms in either spouse was that person's self-report of life events. Future research on the social origins of psychiatric symptoms should consider the possible contributions of a spouse's symptom state to the health of the individual under study.

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