Couples' quality of life linked even when one partner dies
In previous work, Bourassa and colleagues had found evidence of synchrony, or interdependence, between partners' quality of life, finding that a person's cognitive functioning or health influences not only their own well-being but also the well-being of their partner. Bourassa and colleagues wondered whether this interdependence continues even when one of the partners passes away.
To find out, the researchers turned to the multinational, representative Study of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), an ongoing research project with over 80,000 aging adult participants across 18 European countries and Israel. Specifically, they examined data from 546 couples in which one partner had died during the study period and data from 2566 couples in which both partners were still living.
As one might expect, the researchers found that participants' quality of life earlier in the study predicted their quality of life later. And the data also provided evidence for interdependence between partners -- a participant's quality of life earlier in the study was associated with his or her partner's quality of life later.
Intriguingly, the results revealed interdependence between partners even when one partner died during the study; the association remained even after Bourassa and colleagues accounted for other factors that might have played a role, such as participants' health, age, and years married.