Objectives: Using a self-regulatory framework, this study aims to identify how couples perceive a partner's support style after myocardial infarction (MI), and whether this predicts the patient's health-related quality of life (HR-QoL) and self-management (S-M) 9 months later.
Method: This longitudinal dyadic study includes 73 couples (86% of patients were men), recruited from two cardiac rehabilitation programmes in the Netherlands. Mean age of patients was 54.8 (SD=9.6) and of partners 52.5 (SD=9.8). Participants were interviewed and completed questionnaires at baseline (T1). Repeat questionnaires were returned by 69 and 67 couples after 3 (T2) and 9 months (T3), respectively.
Results: Support by partners is conceptualized in this study as 'active engagement' (AE), which involves the extent to which a partner engages the patient in conversations which focus on emotional support and problem solving. Levels of AE do not change over time, nor do they differ between members of the dyad. Levels of overprotection (OP) diminish with time, whilst patients consistently perceive more OP than partners report providing. Patients' experience of goal hindrance (at T3) due to the MI is associated with a decreased HR-QoL at T3 (controlling for baseline measures). The perception of having a supportive (AE) partner at T1 contributes to enhanced patient HR-QoL at each subsequent time point, although not to physical functioning. Perceiving a partner as overprotective (at T1) predicts worsened physical functioning in patients (at T3). Improvements in S-M at T3 (controlling for baseline measures) are reported by patients whose partner displays active engagement at T1.
Conclusions: Cardiac rehabilitation should aim to redress the experience of goal disturbance and advise partners on how to provide support.