Marital quality and diabetes: Results from the health and retirement study

Mark A. Whisman, Angela Li, David A. Sbarra, Charles L. Raison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objective: Poor marital quality is associated with many different indicators of poor health, including immunologic and metabolic responses that have relevance for distal disease outcomes such as diabetes. We conducted this study to evaluate whether poor marital quality was associated with the prevalence of diabetes in a population-based sample of Americans over the age of 50. Method: Participants were married adults from the 2006 (N = 3,898) and 2008 (N = 3,452) waves of the Health and Retirement Study. Participants completed an interview and a self-report questionnaire, and current use of diabetes medication and glycosylated hemoglobin obtained from blood spot samples were used to index diabetes status. Marital quality was assessed with items regarding perceived frequency of positive and negative exchanges with partner. Results: Decreasing frequency of positive exchanges and increasing frequency of negative exchanges with one's spouse were associated with higher prevalence of diabetes among men, but not women at both waves; gender significantly moderated the associations between partner exchanges and diabetes status for the 2006 data. The association between frequency of partner exchanges and diabetes status generally remained significant in men after accounting for demographic characteristics and other risk factors (obesity, hypertension, low physical activity). Conclusion: Poor marital quality as operationalized by rates of positive and negative partner exchanges was associated with increased prevalence of diabetes in men. These results are consistent with prior work on marriage and health, and suggest that poor marital quality may be a unique risk factor for diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)832-840
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Diabetes
  • Glycosylated hemoglobin
  • Health
  • Marital adjustment
  • Marital quality
  • Marital satisfaction
  • Spouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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