In sickness and in health: the longitudinal associations between marital dissatisfaction, depression and spousal health

Sarah Woods, Jacob B. Priest, Tara L. Signs, Candice A. Maier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The present study explored how spouses’ reports of marital dissatisfaction (independent variable) are associated with depression symptoms (mediator) and physical health (dependent variable) over time. Data were from the Marriage Matters Panel Survey (Nock et al.,). We used autoregressive cross-lagged models to test temporal connections between variables for newlywed husbands, wives and couples (N=707 couples) at Waves 1, 2 and 3, spanning five years. Results indicated physical health is an important predictor, as are wives’ depression symptoms and husbands’ marital dissatisfaction (all three demonstrate partner effects). However, the effects of health are no longer observed at Time 2. For wives there is a reciprocal relationship between marital dissatisfaction and depression symptoms; for husbands, marital dissatisfaction leads to increased depression. This study provides additional support that marital dissatisfaction, depression and physical health are interrelated across time. Practitioner points: Assessment and treatment using a biopsychosocial approach is critical to fully understanding connections between marriage, depression and health for couples Repeated assessment of marital dissatisfaction in couple therapy may be necessary, as effects of dissatisfaction are corrosive over time and predict other areas of wellbeing Attending to and exploring gender differences in couples may be helpful, as links between marital dissatisfaction, depression and health vary for men and women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-125
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Family Therapy
Volume41
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

Keywords

  • depression
  • longitudinal
  • marital research
  • physical health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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