Depressive diabetics' spouses also experience distress, study finds

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Spouses of older patients with diabetes tend to experience distress if the diabetic patient has symptoms of depression, according to a new study.

Researchers at Purdue University based their study on statistical models with 185 couples older than 50 years of age, noting that after patients and spouses completed individual surveys that measured distress related to diabetes — such as adherence to treatment recommendations and depressive symptoms — they found that distress felt by spouses is similar to what patients felt, which could contribute to their own depressive symptoms, including irritability or sadness.

These depressive symptoms, the researchers noted, come from patients' own anxieties about living with the disease or from caring for someone with the disease, but not necessarily because the other person is struggling.

"Because spouses' distress is not always directly linked to feelings of their partners, it tells us that we need to pay more attention to the spouse, as well as the patient," said lead researcher Melissa Franks, an assistant professor of child development and family studies. "Understanding the triggers for depressive symptoms can help practitioners and experts better care for patients and spouses as individuals and as a unit."

The findings appeared in the December 2010 issue of the journal Family Relations.

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