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Self-Management, Health, and Resilience in Partners (SHARP) Study


Collaborators: Courtney Polenick (PI), Kira Birditt

Funding: The University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry

Project Period: 2/2020 – 1/2023

Description: Multimorbidity (i.e., having two or more chronic conditions) is widespread in middle and later life, affecting roughly half of adults aged 45-64 and over 80% of adults aged 65 and older. Multiple chronic conditions are linked to greater healthcare expenditures and higher rates of healthcare utilization, hospitalization, adverse drug events, disability, and mortality. Multimorbidity may also lead to psychological distress among aging adults and their spouses or cohabiting partners due to an array of factors such as complex management needs, declines in health and functioning, and increased caregiving. Furthermore, the time demands of managing multiple chronic conditions may disrupt self-care routines among couples, which could have a lasting negative impact on the health of both partners. Yet we know little about how the management of multiple chronic health conditions at the individual level (i.e., two or more conditions within individuals) and couple level (i.e., two or more conditions between partners) impact daily experiences. Previous dyadic studies have largely focused on a single chronic health condition or related symptoms (e.g., pain) in one partner. Understanding how partners affect each other’s daily experiences in their management of multiple chronic health conditions would inform the design of proactive interventions to maintain their optimal health and functioning. This mixed methods pilot project will provide in-depth knowledge regarding older couples who manage multiple chronic health conditions by examining: 1) how multiple chronic health conditions affect couples’ daily experiences; 2) ways that partners individually and jointly manage and cope with multiple chronic health conditions; and 3) key strengths and vulnerabilities among older couples that may impact illness self-management along with overall health and well-being.