Background. Most studies of spouse similarity for psychiatric disorders have focused on clinical samples and are thus limited by selection bias. This study is, to our knowledge, the first comprehensive investigation of spouse similarity for lifetime psychiatric history in a general population sample using standardized diagnostic criteria.
Methods. We studied 519 pairs of spouses residing in Edmonton, Canada who completed the Diagnostic Interview Schedule psychiatric interview. In each pair, one spouse belonged to a random subsample of persons who had participated in a large population survey and was re-interviewed. Association between spouses for lifetime DSM-III psychiatric disorders was analysed with bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses.
Results. We observed significant spousal association for lifetime presence of affective disorders and for the spectrum of antisocial personality and addiction disorders. Antisocial personality in one spouse was also associated with anxiety disorders in the other spouse, namely post-traumatic stress disorder in wives and phobia in husbands; similarly, drug abuse/dependence in wives was associated with generalized anxiety in husbands and male drug abuse/dependence was associated with female post-traumatic stress disorder. Dysthymia in wives was associated with generalized anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in husbands.
Conclusions. The existence of associations between spouses for the presence of psychiatric disorders, either similar or different, has significant implications for both clinicians and researchers. Future research should aim at exploring the aetiological mechanisms of these associations.
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