Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Spouse’s hospitalization increases partner’s risk of death, new study shows

16.02.2006


Most people have heard stories about an older person who "dies of a broken heart" shortly after their partner’s death. A new study finds that hospitalization of a spouse for a serious illness also increases their partner’s risk of death. Further, the risk is greater with certain diagnoses, such as dementia, stroke and hip fracture. The study was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).



The report, by Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., of Harvard Medical School, and Paul D. Allison, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, is the first to measure a link between a spouse’s hospitalization and increased mortality of their partner across a comprehensive range of spousal diseases. The findings, says Christakis, were striking. "When a spouse is hospitalized, the partner’s risk of death increases significantly and remains elevated for up to two years," he notes. The study is published in the Feb. 16, 2006, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"This highly innovative study – in an enormous sample of older people – demonstrates yet another important connection between social networks and health," says Richard M.Suzman, Ph.D., Associate Director of the NIA for Behavioral and Social Research. "We don’t yet know the full extent to which social networks affect health. We need to explore the mechanisms behind the stresses associated with these hospitalizations as we look for ways to protect people when their central relationships are disrupted."


Christakis and colleagues studied more than half a million couples over 65 years old who were enrolled in Medicare from 1993 through 2001. Over that period, the study found that, overall, having a sick spouse is about one fourth as bad for a partner’s health as having a spouse actually die. Some spousal diseases, such as hip fracture or psychiatric conditions, were nearly as bad for partners as it would be if the spouse actually died. The period of greatest risk is over the short run, within 30 days of a spouse’s hospitalization or death, the researchers noted, when the risk of death upon a spouse’s hospitalization is almost as great as that when a spouse dies. The mortality risk increased with age and, for women of a hospitalized husband, with poverty.

The illness responsible for the spouse’s hospitalization also matters. For example, among men with hospitalized wives, if their wife is hospitalized with colon cancer, there is almost no effect on the husband’s subsequent mortality. But if the wife is hospitalized with heart disease, the risk of death for a husband is 12 percent higher compared to the wife not being sick at all. If one’s wife is hospitalized with psychiatric disease, a partner’s risk of death is 19 percent higher. And if one’s wife is hospitalized with the principal diagnosis of dementia, mortality risk for the husband is 22 percent higher. Similar effects are seen in women whose husbands are hospitalized.

The more a disease that causes a hospitalization interferes with the patient’s physical or mental ability, regardless of the extent to which it is deadly, the more of an impact it may have for the partner of the ill person, the researchers suggest. "The study suggests that diseases that are more disabling are more likely to result in disease and death in the caregiving spouse," Christakis says. Spousal illness might also deprive the partner of emotional, economic or other practical support, or might impose stress on the caregiver which may contribute to their risk of death, the investigators theorize.

Christakis and his colleagues are interested in the health consequences of social networks. The impact of the death of one spouse on the mortality of the other is one well-known example. The impact of illness is a further example. "People’s health is interconnected," Christakis says. "When we take care of people when they’re sick, we’re also taking care of the patients’ spouses. So helping one person might help others. Such benefits should be included in any cost-benefit analyses of interventions.

Jeannine Mjoseth | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nia.nih.gov

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>