Chronic condition discordance and physical activity among midlife and older couples.

Courtney A. Polenick, Kira S. Birditt, Angela Turkelson, Helen C. Kales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Chronic conditions in middle and later life are associated with lower physical activity. Yet little is known about chronic condition discordance (i.e., the extent to which conditions have nonoverlapping self-management requirements) within older individuals and couples and its implications for physical activity. We determined how the degrees of chronic condition discordance at the individual level and the couple level (i.e., between spouses) were linked to moderate physical activity across an 8-year period. Method: The U.S. sample included 1,621 couples from five waves of the Health and Retirement Study (2006–2014). Dyadic growth curve models estimated how individual-level and couple-level chronic condition discordance were linked to initial levels of and rates of change in moderate activity. Models controlled for age, minority status, education, and own and partner reports of baseline negative marital quality, time-varying depressive symptoms, and time-varying number of chronic conditions. Results: A considerable proportion of wives (25.4%) and husbands (18.9%) reported moderate activity less than once a week. When individuals (wives: β = −0.10; husbands: β = −0.09) or their spouses (wives: β = −0.04; husbands: β = −0.05) had greater individual-level chronic condition discordance, lower initial moderate activity was reported. When husbands had greater individual-level discordance, both wives (β = −0.16) and husbands (β = −0.19) had a faster rate of decline in moderate activity over time. Couple-level chronic condition discordance was not significantly linked to moderate activity. Conclusions: These findings suggest the importance of promoting physical activity among individuals and couples managing complex chronic conditions. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-20
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • chronic illness
  • couples
  • marriage
  • multimorbidity
  • physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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