Coping and marital support as correlates of tinnitus disability

Mark Sullivan, Wayne Katon, Joan Russo, Robert Dobie, Connie Sakai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Although there is increasing awareness that depression can add significantly to the disability associated with chronic medical illness, it is not clear whether all of the impact of psychosocial factors upon medical disability are mediated by or moderated by depression. It has not been determined whether treating depression alone is an adequate strategy for addressing psychosocial magnification of medical disability. We analyzed data collected at initiation of a treatment trial from 92 subjects with chronic severe tinnitus to assess the role of coping, and 49 subject-spouse pairs to assess the role of marital interaction in tinnitus-related role dysfunction. Three multiple regression models were developed. After accounting for gender, tinnitus loudness, and depressive severity among the 92 subjects, greater role dysfunction was associated with appraisal of tinnitus as salient, and less role dysfunction with coping through avoidance or seeking social support. Marital interaction was assessed from patient and spouse perspectives. In the patientrated set, less marital cohesion was associated with greater tinnitus-related role dysfunction. In the spouse-rated set, more punishing responses to subject illness behavior were associated with greater tinnitus-related role dysfunction. In each case the disabling effect was greater in the face of high levels of subject depression. This study provides evidence for the oft-stated analogy between chronic tinnitus and chronic pain, and provides justification for a similar multimodal treatment strategy. Reducing depression is an important means to reduce medical disability but should be supplemented by clinical attention to appraisal of the illness, modes of coping with the illness, and spousal response to the illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-266
Number of pages8
JournalGeneral Hospital Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Coping and marital support as correlates of tinnitus disability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this