People married to a frail spouse are likely to become frail themselves and a person married to a depressed spouse is more likely to be sad, say researchers, adding that in older adults, frailty and depression are connected within couples.
Frailty, a condition that affects 10% of people aged 65 and older, can make older adults more prone to disability, falls, hospitalisation and a shorter lifespan.
They found the frailer an older person is the more likely it is that he or she will become depressed. The more depressed an older person is the more likely he or she is to become frail.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, examined the effects of frailty and depression on married couples.
These findings are based on a study of data from 1,260 married couples, aged 65 and older, collected during the Cardiovascular Health Study.
Although we know much about the effects of frailty and depression on individuals, up until now, little has been uncovered about how these two conditions may be connected within couples.
Interestingly, older husbands tended to be more depressed and frail than younger husbands. Older wives were not more depressed, but were frailer than younger wives.
Generally, people are considered frail if they have three or more of these conditions: Low body weight (unintentional loss of 10 pounds in the past year), weakness, exhaustion, slowness and physical inactivity.
Frailty and depression symptoms may be intertwined for spouses, suggesting that senior living facilities might consider ways to increase couples’ engagement in physical activities, social activities and mutual support, the researchers suggested.