Rheumatoid arthritis patients' perceptions of mutuality in conversations with spouses/partners and their links with psychological and physical health

Authors


Abstract

Objective

Mutuality, measured as subjects' perceptions of responsiveness in conversations with their spouse/partners, is linked with women's psychological health. Our objectives were to examine physical and psychological health outcomes of married/partnered patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in relation to their perceptions of their own responsiveness (self-mutuality), their partner's responsiveness (partner-mutuality), and combined responsiveness (overall mutuality), and to examine potential sex differences in the links between mutuality and depressive symptoms.

Methods

Symptoms of depression and anxiety, physical disability, and arthritis impact reported by RA patients were examined in correlation matrices with their perceptions of overall mutuality, partner-mutuality, and self-mutuality in conversations with spouses/partners in the whole sample (n = 148) and separately for men (n = 34) and women (n = 114). Sex moderation of the links between mutuality and depression was tested in hierarchical regressions.

Results

In the whole sample and among women, all mutuality measures had significant inverse correlations with all health outcomes. In men, physical disability was unrelated to mutuality measures, but otherwise correlations approximated those in the whole sample and for women. Sex (being female) interacted with self-mutuality, but not overall or partner-mutuality, in predicting fewer depressive symptoms.

Conclusion

RA patients' perceptions of mutuality in conversations with spouses/partners predicted better health across a spectrum of outcomes. Overall mutuality and partner-mutuality predicted fewer depressive symptoms for both men and women, but self-mutuality appeared more important for women than for men. The clinical relevance of findings and their implications for behavioral interventions with RA patients are discussed.

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