Partner?s illness can affect you

Couples are impacted by the illness or death of their partners with men showing a greater vulnerability, says a study. Nicholas Christakis and fellow researchers from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts, and the University of Pennsylvania studied the effects of illness of a spouse on the risk of illness in the other partner in a nine-year study on more than half a million elderly couples.
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Published on Feb 17, 2006 01:23 AM IST
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Couples are impacted by the illness or death of their partners with men showing a greater vulnerability, says a study.

Nicholas Christakis and fellow researchers from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts, and the University of Pennsylvania studied the effects of illness of a spouse on the risk of illness in the other partner in a nine-year study on more than half a million elderly couples.

They found that when a spouse was hospitalised, the partner's risk of death increased significantly and remained higher for up to two years. But the greatest period of risk was within 30 days of a spouse's hospitalisation or death, reported the online edition of BBC News. The couples they recruited were between the ages of 65 and 98. During the nine-year study period, 74 percent of husbands and 67 percent of wives were hospitalised at least once, while half of husbands and one in three wives died. A husband's death risk rose 53% within 30 days of a wife dying, while a wife's mortality risk rose 61 per cent, said the New England Journal of Medicine study.

The study also found different diseases had different impacts.  For example, the hospitalisation of a wife for colon cancer or lung cancer had no effect on the husband, but with dementia, the death risk rose 22 per cent, they found.                                          

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