Is it contagious? Affect similarity among spouses

Aging Ment Health. 2002 Aug;6(3):266-74. doi: 10.1080/13607860220142431.


Theories of emotional contagion suggest that spouses mutually experience affective or emotional states. However, empirical support for this theory is limited. Using a dyadic approach, this study examines affect similarity of depressive symptoms between elders with vision impairment and their spouses. As part of an investigation on older couples dealing with disability, 123 elders dealing with a recent vision loss and their spouses were interviewed. Guided by a stress process model, predictors of spouse depressive symptoms were examined. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that the spouse's race, health, care-giving appraisal, self-efficacy, conflict with other family members regarding their partner, and their partner's depressive symptoms significantly predicted spouse depression. Specifically, spouses who were white, in poorer health, experienced more care-giving burden, had more family conflict, and poorer self-efficacy, were more likely to be depressed. Entered in the final step, elder depression uniquely contributed to the prediction of spouse depression. This points to affect similarity among spouses, which suggests that when one spouse is depressed, the other spouse is likely to experience a similar depressive symptomatology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Affect*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Support
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Visually Impaired Persons / psychology*