Having an Unsupportive Spouse Increases the Likelihood of Depression

C. Price
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Highlighting the importance of having a positive relationship, an extensive new study finds having an unsupportive or critical spouse brings an increased likelihood of depression.

Led by Dr. Alan Teo, a psychiatrist with the University of Michigan, the study determined people with unsupportive or critical spouses were “significantly more likely” to be depressed, even compared with people not in an ongoing relationship.

Researchers surveyed 4,642 U.S. adults between the ages of 25 and 75 and revisited those respondents a decade later with the same survey.

Participants were asked to gauge how supportive their relationship is through questions like “How often does (your partner) criticize you?” and “How much can you open up to him or her if you need to talk about your worries?”


“People with unsupportive spouses

were more likely to be depressed.”

Questions measured the reliability of partners in times of need, including serious personal problems. The study also looked at how often spouses openly criticize their partner as opposed to being supportive.

“Our study shows that the quality of social relationships is a significant risk factor for major depression,” Teo said. “This is the first time that a study has identified this link in the general population.”

Teo said this research emphasizes how the quality of a spousal relationship can be a strong predictor of the likelihood of major depression disorder later on.

The study is one of the first to explore depression in relationships applied across a broad population over such an extended period of time.

While the study also examined other relationship patterns with friends and family members, it found those to be considerably less predictive of depression than a spousal relation.

Teo said the results suggest “the broader use of couples therapy might be considered, both as a treatment for depression and as a preventative measure.”

Source: The University of Michigan. Photo source: