Background: There is growing evidence for spousal associations in late-life development among key functional domains. Spousal interrelations in subjective well-being (SWB) have primarily been discussed in the context of a model of 'transmission', an indicator of well-being. Typically, depression is used to mark this, but few studies have examined if such transmission can be found over the long term in older couples' SWB. Objective: We aimed to determine whether longitudinal dyadic interrelations exist among older couples in the SWB domain, as indicated by morale. Methods: We applied dynamic models to 11-year longitudinal data of 316 couples from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging (median age = 75 years at baseline) to explore whether the levels of SWB for one partner predict change in SWB for the other. Results: Spousal interrelations emerged and were found to be gender-specific with wives predicting subsequent change among husbands, but not the reverse pattern of influence. Husbands whose wives reported higher initial SWB showed a relatively shallower decline over time relative to husbands whose wives reported lower initial SWB levels. These associations were robust after covarying for differences in age, education, health and marital characteristics (number of children and length of marriage). Conclusion: Our study is consistent with, and illustrates empirically that close relationships shape individual developmental outcomes. The findings suggest that wives play an important role in setting the affective tone in older couples. We discuss possible factors underlying such interrelations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geriatrics and Gerontology