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Objective: To determine whether people whose marital partners have depression, diabetes, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, hyperlipidaemia, peptic ulcer disease, or asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are at increased risk of the same disease. Design: Cross sectional study. Setting: 10 practices from the Trent Focus Collaborative Research Practice Network. Participants: 8386 married couples (16 772 individuals) from a population of 29 014 participants aged 30-74 years. Outcomes: Risk of disease in participants whose marital partner had that disease compared with those whose partner did not. Results: After both partners' age, smoking, and obesity and which general practice they attend were adjusted for, participants whose marital partner had asthma, depression, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, and peptic ulcer disease were at increased risk of having the same disease. The adjusted odds ratios were 1.69 (95% confidence interval 1.43 to 2.98) for asthma, 2.08 (1.71 to 2.54) for depression, 1.32 (1.04 to 1.67) for hypertension, 1.44 (1.19 to 1.75) for hyperlipidaemia, and 2.01 (1.48 to 2.73) for peptic ulcer disease. Conclusion: Partners of people with specific diseases are at increased risk of the disease themselves - at least 70% increased risk for asthma, depression, and peptic ulcer disease. This implicates shared environmental causes in some diseases in addition to any genetic or distant exposure or shared behaviours with respect to seeking health care.


Journal article


British Medical Journal

Publication Date





636 - 638