health, coping with illness/disability, marriage, comorbid illnesses


Many studies examining illness within marriage have investigated how illness in one spouse influences the other spouse. In later-life marriages, where both spouses are more likely to have health challenges, there is an increased likelihood that health symptoms from both spouses affect each other. In the current study we examined how health symptoms in a “healthy” spouse may exacerbate health problems in a partner (the patient) who is managing multiple chronic illnesses. Surveys were collected across 14 days from 27 later-life couples where patients had both diabetes and osteoarthritis. Results indicated that higher healthy spouse symptoms were generally associated with higher patient symptoms, suggesting a spillover effect. Spouse reports of positive and negative mood were inversely linked with patient health outcomes. Spouse reports of higher positive marital interactions were surprisingly linked with higher patients’ arthritis activity and activity limitations, possibly indicating a compensatory effect where marital interactions increase with symptoms. Daily spouse reports of positive marital interactions and mood were linked with patient health outcomes even after the spillover of health symptoms was taken into account.

Original Publication Citation

Yorgason, J. B., Roper, S. O., Sandberg, J. G., & Berg, C. A. (2012). Stress spillover of health symptoms from healthy spouses to patient spouses in older married couples managing both diabetes and osteoarthritis. Families, Systems, & Health, 30(4), 330.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Families, Systems, & Health




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor