Spouses in older marriages are increasingly taking on the role of their partner’s caregiver in dealing with chronic conditions like heart disease, memory loss, and cancer. In a growing number of instances, both spouses care for each other as they struggle with any one of a variety of health issues such as arthritis, diabetes, and respiratory problems.
In a Yale School of Public Health study published this week in Health Psychology, researchers investigated how both giving and receiving support affects husbands’ and wives’ blood pressure and emotions when both partners are dealing with health conditions.
The researchers expected that mutual caregiving would lower blood pressure and heart rate for both individuals and that wives would likely reap more benefit from the support than husbands.
The actual findings were surprising. The study’s primary author, Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) associate professor Dr. Joan Monin, explains:
“What we found was that when husband’s received support from their wives, the husband’s blood pressure and distress decreased,” said Dr. Monin, who examines caregiver relationships as a researcher with the YSPH Social and Behavioral Sciences Department. “When wives received similar support, husbands and wives felt closer, but both partners’ heart rate remained elevated and wives felt even more distressed.”Tags: Friday Letter Submission, Publish on September 13