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The experience of heart disease in a partner resulted in a closer relationship for most couples

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Q What are the effects of heart disease in a partner on a couple’s relationship?


Qualitative study using an interpretive phenomenological approach with multiple interviews.


University hospital in Basel, Switzerland.


24 couples who had been in a stable partnership for ⩾1 year, with 1 partner who had experienced an acute cardiac event and completed a cardiac rehabilitation programme in the previous year. Exclusion criteria included heart failure in the patient, terminal illness or mental disability in either partner, and current participation of the couple in counselling. Patients were mainly middle-aged, married men (mean age 61 y), and partners were their wives (mean age 58 y).


Couples were interviewed in their homes 3 times: an in-depth interview with the couple (mean 85 min), followed up within 6−8 weeks by individual interviews with each partner (mean 54 min). The semistructured interviews addressed disease onset, effects on everyday life, changes in the relationship, and meanings …

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  • For correspondence: Dr R Mahrer-Imhof, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland. romy.mahrer{at}

  • Source of funding: Roche Research Foundation Basel.