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J Health Soc Behav. 2017 Mar;58(1):37-53. doi: 10.1177/0022146516688242. Epub 2017 Jan 31.

A Twin Study on Perceived Stress, Depressive Symptoms, and Marriage.

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1 University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
2 University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA.


Marriage is associated with reductions in both perceived stress and depressive symptoms, two constructs found to be influenced by common genetic effects. A study of sibling twins was used to test whether marriage decreases the proportion of variance in depressive symptoms accounted for by genetic and environmental effects underlying perceived stress. The sample consisted of 1,612 male and female twin pairs from the University of Washington Twin Registry. The stress-buffering role of marriage was tested relative to two unmarried groups: the never married and the divorced. Multivariate twin models showed that marriage reduced genetic effects of perceived stress on depressive symptoms but did not reduce environmental effects. The findings suggest a potential marital trade-off for women: access to a spouse may decrease genetic effects of perceived stress on depressive symptoms, although marital and family demands may increase environmental effects of perceived stress on depressive symptoms.


depressive symptoms; marital status; marriage benefit; perceived stress; stress sensitivity

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