Depressive Symptoms and Rheumatoid Arthritis: Spouse Empathic Responding as a Buffer
Article first published online: 26 MAR 2014
Copyright © 2014 by the American College of Rheumatology
Arthritis Care & Research
Volume 66, Issue 4, pages 532–541, April 2014
How to Cite
Stephenson, E., DeLongis, A., Esdaile, J. M. and Lehman, A. J. (2014), Depressive Symptoms and Rheumatoid Arthritis: Spouse Empathic Responding as a Buffer. Arthritis Care Res, 66: 532–541. doi: 10.1002/acr.22161
- Issue published online: 26 MAR 2014
- Article first published online: 26 MAR 2014
- Accepted manuscript online: 10 SEP 2013 03:31PM EST
- Manuscript Accepted: 3 SEP 2013
- Manuscript Received: 17 MAY 2013
- Graduate fellowship from the University of British Columbia
- Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada
- Graduate and postdoctoral fellowships from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Canadian Arthritis Network
- Pfizer Fellowship in Arthritis Research
To examine the effects of depressive symptoms and spouse empathic responding on patient disability and marital quality over time and to identify factors that contribute to patients perceiving their spouses as responding empathically to their rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Patients diagnosed with RA and their spouses (n = 133 couples) independently completed mailed questionnaires at baseline and 1 year later. Patients completed measures of functional impairment, marital quality, depressive symptoms, and perceived empathic responding from their spouse. Spouses reported their own depressive symptoms and empathic responding behavior.
Perceived empathic responding was found to interact with spouse depressive symptoms, contributing significantly to the prediction of patient functional impairment at followup. Only when spouse empathic responding was low was spouse depression associated with greater patient functional impairment 1 year later. Similarly, in the model predicting patient marital quality at followup, there were significant 2-way interactions between perceived empathic responding and both spouse depressive symptoms and patient depressive symptoms. Only when spouse empathic responding was low did patient or spouse depression significantly predict poorer marital quality at followup. Patient perceptions of spouse empathic responding were found to depend on spouse reports of their own empathic responding, patient marital satisfaction, and the interaction of patient depressive symptoms and marital satisfaction.
Empathic responding from the spouse was found to buffer against the negative effects of spouse depression on functional and marital outcomes for patients with RA. In developing couple-oriented RA treatments, increasing perceived empathic responding could serve as a useful target for intervention.