Over 8000 married couples, between the ages of 30 and 74 years of age, were included in the study.
It was found that the partners of people with asthma, depression, and peptic ulcer disease were 70% more likely to suffer from the disease themselves. This was the case after adjustments had been made for age, obesity, and smoking status in both partners,
The team also found that people with partners suffering from other conditions such as high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia were also more likely to suffer from the same conditions as their spouse.
This link is most likely to be caused by the environment within which the couple live, with shared environmental factors putting cohabiting partners at risk of developing the same diseases.
The finding for asthma may be due to shared diet or shared exposure to allergens.
| Shared environment may cause shared disease.
| British Medical Journal |
On the other hand, the results for hypertension and hyperlipidemia suggest that diet and the pattern of physical exercise shared by couples has an important role in the disease's cause.
A further explanation is that couples may share similar attitudes towards healthcare and seeking health advice.
In their conclusion, the researchers claim that their findings could have implications for screening and other interventions.
Interventions targeted at couples may prove more effective and screening spouses for some diseases should be considered.