Reciprocal Effects of Life Satisfaction and Depressive Symptoms Within Long-Wed Couples Over Time

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2018 Mar 2;73(3):363-371. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbv162.


Objectives: This study was undertaken to examine bidirectional effects of well-being over time in long-wed couples.

Method: We recruited 125 couples 50+ years of age who had been married 20+ years. Both spouses reported life satisfaction and depressive symptoms independently at three annual points over 2 years. We computed actor-partner interdependence models (APIMs) to identify concomitant and longitudinal bidirectional effects between long-wed spouses. Where parallel associations were found between models of life satisfaction and depressive symptoms, we undertook invariance analyses to compare the relative strength of associations.

Results: We observed a significant association between wives' and their husbands' life satisfaction at baseline; a concomitant crossover effect was also evident from wives to husbands at 1- and 2-year follow-up, such that wives' life satisfaction predicted changes in their husbands' life satisfaction beyond that previously and concomitantly reported.

Discussion: Our findings suggest that older wives influence their husbands after decades of marriage; the relative effect of this crossover on older husbands is comparatively equivalent for life satisfaction and depressive symptoms. These findings stand in contrast to prior research with younger couples suggesting that long-wed couples may be a distinct subset of the population of all married couples (i.e., those who have not divorced).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Spouses / psychology
  • Spouses / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors