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Marriage after the transition to stroke: a systematic review


In health and chronic illness, satisfying marriages promote wellbeing and life satisfaction, yet stroke research has focused on either the stroke survivor as the patient or the spouse as a care-giver. Using Pope, Mays and Popay's framework for synthesising qualitative and quantitative methods, we conducted a systematic review and synthesis of 39 peer-reviewed studies to determine what happens to marital relationships after one partner has suffered a stroke. All the articles examined the impact of stroke. Three overarching themes characterise the evolution of marriage after stroke: chaos in the marriage, work to re-establish the marriage and evolution of the marriages. While both the stroke condition itself and the survivors’ need for care undermined the emotional qualities of the relationship for some couples, about two-thirds were able to retain or regain the relationship closeness. As in other chronic illnesses, the relationship closeness and a couple's ability to collaborate contributed to the survivor's recovery and to the satisfaction with life of the stroke survivor and the spouse. Our results underscore the need to consider the quality of, and the qualities of, the relationship between stroke survivors and their spouses. Future research could include a greater focus on qualitative or mixed-methods approaches to explore the interactions between stroke survivors and spouses that impact the wellbeing of both partners.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Sharon Anderson, Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta, 302 Human Ecology Building, Edmonton, AB Canada T6 G 2N1 E-mail:
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*Indicates articles included in the review; † indicates multiple studies of the same population.

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