The Impact of Chronic Health Conditions as an Underlying Challenge on Couple’s Wellbeing
Chronic health conditions affect over 100 million Americans (Cano and Leonard in J Clin Psychol 62(11):1409–1418, 2006). Many clinicians are not integrating chronic physical health symptoms into psychotherapy. There is a complexity of issues that arise within the context of chronic health conditions. Making more need for couple and family therapists, whose primary focus is on a systemic family perspective, to understand how chronic health conditions are impacting family systems when they present for therapy (Canavarro and Dattilio in Contemp Fam Ther 33:87–90, 2011; Poleshuck et al. in Prof Psychol 41(4):312–318, 2010). The correlation of chronic health conditions on marriages and relationships has received limited attention in clinical research. This secondary data analysis examines the differences in overall well-being and psychological distress of individuals and couples seeking therapy who report a presence of chronic health conditions. Original research on the relationship between chronic health conditions and well-being, as measured by comparison of means, will be presented. Few studies investigate how chronic health conditions, when not the primary reason for seeking therapy, influence wellbeing and distress upon entering therapy. This study included 2742 participants from a clinical sample of individuals and couple seeking therapy in a family therapy clinic at a university training clinic. Independent t-tests, as well as ANOVA, were run to compare well-being and psychological distress of individuals and couples in the sample. Results showed significant differences in both overall wellbeing and psychological distress for both individuals who reported chronic illness for themselves, or their partners, than those that reported no chronic illness. There were also significant differences between groups on both well-being and psychological distress [F (2, 2706) = 47.55, p = .00, F (2, 2697) = 54.59, p = .00]. This results showed significant differences in well-being when no member of the couple has chronic health conditions, one member, or both members, with both members decreasing wellbeing significantly. This study demonstrates that chronic health conditions impact both the individual diagnosed, their partners, and is especially impactful if both members of a couple are diagnosed with chronic health conditions. Study limitations and clinical implications are also discussed.
KeywordsChronic health conditions Couples’ wellbeing Clinical sample Chronic illness Psychological distress Marriage and family therapy
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
All the authors declare no conflict of interest in this project. There is no funding received or other involvement that would create a conflict of interest.
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