Year of Publication



Public Health

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Philip Westgate, PhD

Committee Member

David Fardo, PhD

Committee Member

Edward Kasarskis, MD, PhD


Socioemotional selectivity theory predicts that as the end of life approaches, resources that provide immediate, hedonic reward become more important and resources that provide delayed rewards become less important. The present study tested the theory in the context of marital dyads in which one partner had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a terminal disease. ALS patients (N = 102) and their spouses (N = 100) reported their loneliness, financial worry, and psychological health every 3 months for up to 18 months. In multilevel dyadic models, patients and spouses had similar levels of financial worry and loneliness, but spouses’ psychological health was more affected than patients’ by financial worry. In actor-partner models, patients’ and spouses’ loneliness was associated with the other’s psychological health. Finally, patient psychological health predicted mortality risk. In conclusion, the present study provides good support for the predictions of socioemotional selectivity theory in a strong test of the theory.

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