The relationship of marital quality and psychosocial adjustment to heart disease

Mary Lynn Brecht, Kathleen Dracup, Debra K. Moser, Barbara Riegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Psychosocial adjustment to heart disease is variable. Some patients recover from a myocardial infarction or cardiac surgery quickly, return to work and leisure activities, and experience little emotional distress. Others suffer significant problems in psychosocial adaptation. We proposed and tested a theoretical model of adjustment that included the quality of the marital relationship, dysphoria, chronologic age, and time from the cardiac event (myocardial infarction or surgery) to identify the role that these variables play in adjustment, The study was conducted in 198 men diagnosed with coronary heart disease using the following instruments: The Spanier Dyadic Adjustment Scale, the Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist, and the Psychosocial Adjustment to Illness Scale. Data were collected on entry into the study and 3 months later to identify the stability of the relationships over time. The theoretical model was supported. Findings demonstrated that positive psychosocial adjustment to illness is influenced both by the quality of the patient’s marriage and dysphoria. The spouse appears to influence psychosocial adjustment in an indirect manner by influencing the patient’s experience of emotional distress or dysphoria. Nurses can enhance psychosocial adjustment to coronary heart disease by helping patients and spouses focus on ways to improve the quality of their marriage and by suggesting strategies to improve marital communication and decrease fear and misconceptions related to the illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-85
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1994


  • Adjustment
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Emotional distress
  • Marital quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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