Spouse depression and disease course among persons with rheumatoid arthritis




To examine the role of spouse mood in the disability and disease course of persons with rheumatoid arthritis (PWRA).


A total of 133 married PWRA completed questionnaires, including the Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease Activity Index and the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand, assessing PWRA arthritis disease activity and disability, respectively, at 2 time points 1 year apart. In addition, both PWRA and their spouses completed the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, a standardized community measure of depression at both time points.


Multiple regression analysis revealed spouse depressive symptoms at initial assessment to be predictive of followup PWRA disability and disease activity, even after controlling for initial levels of PWRA depression, disability, disease activity, age, number of years married, education, disease duration, and employment. Specifically, higher levels of spouse depression predicted worse disease course over a 1-year period for PWRA, as indicated by higher reports of subsequent PWRA disability and disease activity.


Our findings highlight the key role played by the spouse in PWRA disease course, and point to the importance of including the spouse in clinical interventions. Implications for theory, research, and treatment are discussed with a focus on examining pathways through which spouse depressive symptoms may affect PWRA disease course and disability.