The quality of life when a partner has substance use problems: a scoping review

Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2018 Nov 20;16(1):219. doi: 10.1186/s12955-018-1042-4.


Objective: To examine the existing body of knowledge on quality of life (QoL) in partners of people with substance use problems (PP-SUPs) to provide a synthesized summary of the evidence and identify gaps in our knowledge on the QoL of PP-SUPs.

Methods: A systematic scoping review was performed. Publications indexed in EMBASE, Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL, SocINDEX, and CENTRAL were searched for original, empirical, peer-reviewed, full-length research papers that examined QoL in PP-SUPs. Research papers identified through a manual search of key references and known references by co-authors were also included. A total of 3070 abstracts were screened, 41 full-text papers examined, and nine were found to meet the inclusion criteria. Eligibility was determined in two steps by four and two independent researchers, respectively. The main findings were explored by content analysis.

Results: Eight of the nine included studies had quantitative designs, one had a mixed methods design, and no qualitative studies were found. Three studies were conducted exclusively among PP-SUPs, whereas the others included various subgroups. A majority of participants were women, and no study was conducted exclusively among men. Nearly half of the studies reported on whether there were minor children in the PP-SUPs' household. The studies used established and generic QoL instruments based on different conceptual and theoretical perspectives on QoL. A majority of the studies found lower QoL in PP-SUPs than in general population, with substance use by the person with a SUP having the most impact on QoL of all evaluated factors. Two studies reported that gender was associated with QoL, with poor QoL being associated with being a male partner and vice versa for female partners.

Conclusions: Further research is needed to examine QoL in PP-SUPs exclusively. A variety of QoL instruments covering various, but limited, dimensions of the concept have been used in previous studies of PP-SUPs. Thus, obtaining a comprehensive understanding of PP-SUPs' QoL is challenging. Both qualitative and large-scale quantitative designs should be used in research on QoL in PP-SUPs, particularly among those with a parenting role.

Keywords: Partners; Quality of life; Substance use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*