Spousal similarity in subjective well-being: the Cardiovascular Health Study

Psychol Aging. 1996 Dec;11(4):582-90. doi: 10.1037//0882-7974.11.4.582.


This study examines the extent to which one spouse's subjective well-being predicts that of the partner (N = 1,040 spousal pairs, 65 years or older). Prior research is extended in two ways: (a) The similarity of both affective domains (depressive symptoms, feelings about life as a whole, and satisfaction with the meaning and purpose of life) and nonaffective domains (perceived health) are examined, and (b) known predictors of well-being in older adults (sociodemographic variables, self and spouse health status variables, and exposure to common environmental events) are statistically controlled. Results indicate that one spouse's assessments of well-being and depression predict the other's well-being even after controlling for known predictors of these outcomes. Given the similarity of findings for affective and nonaffective domains, multiple mechanisms, including contagion, mate selection, and common environmental influences, are speculated as likely to contribute to this phenomenon.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Sick Role*
  • Social Environment
  • Spouses / psychology*