Spouses 'have large impact on health in old age'

A new study by researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Pennsylvania State University has uncovered a link between marital relationships and the health of older people.

The report, which was published in the American Psychological Association's journal Health Psychology, found a "strong" relationship between "depressive symptoms" - such as unhappiness, loneliness and restlessness and what was described as "functional limitations" - which is the physical inability to perform tasks including climbing stairs, picking up objects, cooking and shopping.

Lead author of the study Professor Christiane Hoppmann of UBC's Department of Psychology said: "We show that many of the associations between functional limitations and depressive symptoms that have previously been found in individuals are in fact related to spouses."

She added that this is because people who are unhappy tend to stay at home rather than go out.

Chartered Psychologist Steve Boddington said: "We have known for many years that there is an unhelpful divide between the provision of mental and physical health care and social care services, for older people. This study provides further evidence for the importance of understanding and working holistically with older people taking into account their wider health and social circumstances."

Professor Peter Kinderman, Chartered Psychologist and Chair of the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology, recently urged caution with regards to the results of a study appearing to show a depressive gene.