Socioemotional selectivity and psychological health in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients and caregivers: a longitudinal, dyadic analysis

Psychol Health. 2019 Oct;34(10):1179-1195. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2019.1587441. Epub 2019 Mar 23.


Objective: Socioemotional selectivity theory predicts that as the end of life approaches, goals and resources that provide immediate, hedonic reward become more important than those that provide delayed rewards. This study tested whether these goal domains differentially affected psychological health in the context of marital dyads in which one partner had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a life-limiting disease. Design: ALS patients (N = 102) being treated in three multidisciplinary clinics and their spouses (N = 100) reported their loneliness, financial worry and psychological health every 3 months for up to 18 months. Main Outcome Measure: Psychological health composite. Results: In multilevel dyadic models, patients and spouses had similar levels of financial worry and loneliness. Both patients and spouses had worse psychological health with higher loneliness, but only spouses had worse psychological health with higher financial worry. Significant interactions with age and disease severity indicated that older spouses were more affected by loneliness than were younger spouses, and patients with less severe disease were more affected by financial worry than patients with more severe disease. Conclusion: The results provide good support for socioemotional selectivity theory's implications for psychological health in a strong test of the theory.

Keywords: ALS; Married couples; depression; loneliness; socioemotional selectivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / therapy
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Caregivers / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Patients / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychological Theory
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouses / psychology*