Discordant Chronic Conditions and Depressive Symptoms: Longitudinal Associations Among Middle-Aged and Older Couples


Individuals often manage chronic conditions in middle and later life that may diminish well-being. Little is known, however, about discordant conditions (i.e., two or more conditions with competing self-management requirements) among older couples and their links to depressive symptoms. We considered discordant conditions at both the individual level and the couple level (i.e., between spouses), along with their long-term implications for depressive symptoms.


The U.S. sample included 1,116 middle-aged and older couples drawn from five waves (2006-2014) of the Health and Retirement Study. Longitudinal actor-partner interdependence models evaluated whether individual-level and couple-level discordant chronic health conditions were concurrently linked to depressive symptoms, and whether these associations became stronger over time. Models controlled for age, minority status, education, prior wave depressive symptoms, and each partner's baseline report of negative marital quality and number of chronic conditions in each wave.


Wives and husbands reported significantly greater depressive symptoms when they had individual-level discordant conditions about 2 years after baseline, and these links intensified over time. Beyond this association, husbands had significantly greater depressive symptoms when there were couple-level discordant conditions.


Individual-level and couple-level discordant conditions may have lasting implications for depressive symptoms during midlife and older adulthood.