Marital distress and disease progression: A systematic review


Objective: To review the state of research on the association between marital distress and disease progression. Methods: The PubMed Central, Wiley Interscience, Sciencedirect, Biomed central and Springer-link were searched to identify studies published between January 1984 and October 2012 on disease progression. Articles meeting the following criteria were selected for review: 1) study subjects were spouses, 2) the article was published within the past 28 years in a peer-reviewed journal, and 3) the research included at least one of the following outcomes-marital distress or disease progression. Articles were different on time span, the number of surveys, and the definition of disease. Results: Out of 72 screened articles, 18 met our criteria. Research demonstrates that marital distress and disease progression appear to have bidirectional influence on each other. Conclusion: Marital distress has a significant effect on disease progression. This article summarizes what is known about the association of marital distress on disease progression among spouses with disease. The authors speculate that associations between marital distress and disease progression will motivate policy makers in developing countries to allocate more resources towards spousal service.

Share and Cite:

Guan, M. and Han, B. (2013) Marital distress and disease progression: A systematic review. Health, 5, 1601-1606. doi: 10.4236/health.2013.510216.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Jackman-Cram, S., Dobson, K.S. and Martin, R. (2006) Marital problem-solving behavior in depression and marital distress. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115, 380-384.
[2] Carels, R.A., Szczepanski, R., Blumenthal, J.A. and Sherwood, A. (1998) Blood pressure reactivity and marital distress in employed women. Psychosomatic Medicine, 60, 639-643.
[3] Sandberg, J.G., Yorgason, J.B., Miller, R.B. and Hill, E.J. (2012) Family-to-work spillover in Singapore: Marital distress, physical and mental health, and work satisfaction. Family Relations, 61, 1-15.
[4] Mead, D.E. (2002) Marital distress, co-occurring depression, and marital therapy: A review. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 28, 299-314.
[5] Ahern, D.K., Follick, M.J. and Adams, A.E. (1984) Emotional and marital distress in spouses of chronic low back pain patients. Pain, 18, S15.
[6] Zhou, E.S., Kim, Y., Rasheed, M., Benedict, C., Bustillo, N.E., Soloway, M., Kava, B.R. and Penedo, F.J. (2011) Marital satisfaction of advanced prostate cancer survivors and their spousal caregivers: The dyadic effects of physical and mental health. Psycho-Oncology, 20, 1353-1357.
[7] Wang, K.Y., Wang, K.H. and Zhang, Z.P. (2011) Health-related quality of life and marital quality of vitiligo patients in China. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 25, 429-435.
[8] Renshaw, K.D., Rodebaugh, T. L. and Rodrigues, C.S. (2010) Psychological and marital distress in spouses of Vietnam veterans: Importance of spouses’ perceptions. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24, 743-750.
[9] Kelly, A.B., Halford, W.K. and Young, R.M. (2000) Maritally distressed women with alcohol problems: The impact of a short-term alcohol-focused intervention on drinking behaviour and marital satisfaction. Addiction, 95, 1537-1549.
[10] Yang, H.C. and Schuler, T.A. (2009) Marital quality and survivorship: Slowed recovery for breast cancer patients in distressed relationships: Marital Distress and the Health of Breast Cancer Patients. Cancer, 115, 217-228.
[11] Wittenberg, L., Yutsis, M., Taylor, S., Davis, J.G., Isberg, C.B., Star, P. and Spiegel, D. (2010) Marital status predicts change in distress and well-being in women newly diagnosed with breast cancer and their peer counselors. The Breast Journal, 16, 481-489.
[12] Whisman, M.A. (2007) Marital distress and DSM-IV psychiatric disorders in a population-based national survey. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116, 638-643.
[13] Whisman, M.A. and Schonbrun, Y.C. (2009) Social consequences of borderline personality disorder symptoms in a population-based survey: Marital distress, marital violence, and marital disruption. Journal of Personality Disorders, 23, 410-415.
[14] Whisman, M.A., Uebelacker, L.A. and Settles, T.D. (2010) Marital distress and the metabolic syndrome: Linking social functioning with physical health. Journal of Family Psychology, 24, 367-370.
[15] Riggs, D.S., Hiss, H. and Foa, E.B. (1992) Marital distress and the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Behavior Therapy, 23, 585-597.
[16] Satin, J.R., Linden, W. and Philips, M.J. (2009) Depression as a predictor of disease progression and mortality in cancer patients: A metaanalysis. Cancer, 115, 5349-5361.
[17] Hahlweg, K. and Richter, D. (2010) Prevention of marital instability and distress. Results of an 11-year longitudinal follow-up study. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48, 377-383.
[18] Frank, E., Anderson, C. and Rubinstein, D. (1980) Marital role ideals and perception of marital role behavior in distressed and non distressed couples. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 6, 55-63.
[19] Levin, J.B., Sher, T.G. and Theodos, V. (1997) The effect of intracouple coping concordance on psychological and marital distress in infertility patients. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 4, 361-372.
[20] Schonbrun, Y.C. and Whisman, M.A. (2010) Marital distress and mental health care service utilization. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 732-736.
[21] Kung, W.W. (2000) The intertwined relationship between depression and marital distress: Elements of marital therapy conducive to effective treatment outcome. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 26, 51-63.
[22] Carels, R.A., Sherwood, A., Szczepanski, R. and Blumenthal, J.A. (2000) Ambulatory blood pressure and marital distress in employed women. Behavioral Medicine, 26, 80-85.
[23] Halford, W.K., Bouma, R., Kelly, A. and McD Young, R. (1999) Individual psychopathology and marital distress. Analyzing the association and implications for therapy. Behavior Modification, 23, 179-216.
[24] Hjemboe, S. and Butcher, J.N. (1991) Couples in marital distress: A study of personality factors as measured by the MMPI-2. Journal of Personality Assessment, 57, 216-237.
[25] Hahlweg, K., Revenstorf, D. and Schindler, L. (1982) Treatment of marital distress: Comparing formats and modalities. Advances in Behaviour Research and Therapy, 4, 57-74.
[26] Baucom, D.H., Shoham, V., Mueser, K.T., Daiuto, A.D. and Stickle, T.R. (1998) Empirically supported couple and family interventions for marital distress and adult mental health problems. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 53-88.
[27] Pihet, S., Bodenmann, G., Cina, A., Widmer, K. and Shantinath, S. (2007) Can prevention of marital distress improve well-being? A 1 year longitudinal study. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 14, 79-88.
[28] Markman, H.J. and Hahlweg, K. (1993) The prediction and prevention of marital distress: An international perspective. Clinical Psychology Review, 13, 29-43.
[29] Morrill, M.I., Eubanks-Fleming, C., Harp, A.G., Sollenberger, J.W., Darling, E.V. and Cordova, J.V. (2011) The marriage checkup: Increasing access to marital health care. Family Process, 50, 471-485.
[30] Denton, W.H., Burleson, B.R. and Sprenkle, D.H. (1995) Association of interpersonal cognitive complexity with communication skill in marriage: Moderating effects of marital distress. Family Process, 34, 101-111.
[31] Coyne, J.C. (2010) Marital quality and survivorship: Slowed recovery for breast cancer patients in distressed relationships: Marital distress and the health of breast cancer patients. Cancer, 116, 1009.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.