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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Spousal social support for persons living with rheumatoid arthritis Lehman, Allen Jay


The progressive debilitating effects of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) make the disease a focus of concern and attention for many health care providers. Among the health professionals committed are those whose concern is how varieties of social support can improve the quality of life for persons living with RA. This research is aimed at providing health care educators with insights to improve the quality of social support available to persons living with RA. It focuses specifically on investigation of spousal support as a central dyadic relationship in the provision of overall social support. Persons living with RA and their spouses (N=222 couples) each completed questionnaires assessing perspectives on the physical and psychosocial impact of the disease on the person living with RA. Questionnaire items also assessed both positive and negative aspects of spousal support provided to the person coping with RA. Data collected were analyzed to determine couple concordant/discordant perspectives on RA impact variables and the nature of spousal support. The results of this research suggest that, relative to the perceptions of persons living with RA, spouses evidenced variability in their overestimation and underestimation of fatigue, pain, and physical limitation experienced by their partners with RA. Several of these discordant perspectives were significantly associated with persons living with RA reporting poorer quality of spousal support. In contrast with previous research, the results of the research on couple concordant/discordant perspectives on spousal support provided to the person with RA also suggest that spousal support is effective when the support recipient perceives its presence, not when it is invisible support. Persons with RA reporting the presence of spousal support were, regardless of the spouses’ perspective, associated with higher levels of well-being. These cross-sectional studies are the springboards from which productive longitudinal studies might arise. The fresh dyadic information is of potential value to couple-based psychoeducational interventions designed to assist in the promotion of desirable spousal support.

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