The relationship between perceived support and depression in spousal care partners: a dyadic approach

Kylie Meyer, Neela Patel, Carole White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objectives: Caregiving within a spousal partnership marks a novel relationship stage for couples. Caregiving introduces new stressors and affects couples’ ability to cope, and potentially alters perceptions of emotional support. Prior research on older married couples illustrates how perceived support not only affects an individual’s mental health, but also that of their partner. To date, the dyadic relationship between emotional support and mental health is largely unexamined among caregiving partners, where support expectations may differ. Method: Actor partner interdependence models using linear mixed modeling were applied to data from spouses where one partner received caregiving within the 2014 and 2016 waves of the Health and Retirement Study. We examined the cross-sectional and lagged associations between perceived emotional support and strain from a spouse on actor and partner depression scores, as well as whether one was the caregiver or the care recipient moderated associations. Results: More positive perceptions of support were associated with lower depression scores for oneself (b= −0.55, p < 0.001) and one’s partner (b= −0.24, p < 0.001). Actor effects—how one’s own perceptions of support associate with one’s own depressive symptomology—were stronger for care recipients than for caregivers (b= −0.83, p < 0.001 v. b= −0.26, p < 0.05). Higher perceptions of strain were also associated with higher depression scores for oneself (b = 0.57, p < 0.001) and one’s partner (b = 0.39, p < 0.001), associations that remained even in lagged models. Conclusions: The observation of both actor and partner effects in this study suggests opportunities to improve care recipient outcomes through intervention with caregivers or both members of the care dyad.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1830-1838
Number of pages9
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2021


  • Caregiving
  • depression
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Gerontology
  • Phychiatric Mental Health


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