Shared environment may put marital partners at increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). In this study, the authors examined the degree of concordance of risk factors between men with CHD (n = 177) and their spouses, and described the risk profiles of both patients and spouses. Risk factors examined were smoking, hypertension, obesity, cholesterol level, diet, and exercise.
Data were collected 2 months after the cardiac event using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System tool. Concordance between patient and spouse pairs was evaluated using Pearson correlation coefficients (r) for continuous data and phi coefficients (φ) for nominal data.
Significant concordance was found between patient and spouse pairs for body mass index, history of smoking, current smoking status, frequency of exercise, miles per exercise session, and the amount of fat and fiber in the diet. There was no significant spousal concordance in relation to the diagnosis of hypertension, systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP), cholesterol level, history of high cholesterol, current exercise program, duration of exercise, and amount of salt in the diet. Thus, although the physiological indicators of risk (e.g., BP) were not significantly related among marital partners, behavioral indicators of risk (e.g., smoking) were significantly related.
The findings suggested that shared lifestyles of marital partners may result in greater risk of CHD for female partners of men with CHD. Furthermore, lifestyle interventions that specifically target the marital partners as a unit may be more efficacious than individual patient education strategies.