Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Todd M. Moore

Committee Members

Kristina Gordon, Leticia Flores, Gregory Stuart


Bodily pain is a frequently disabling condition among older adults, which has broad biopsychosocial implications on health and wellbeing. As adults age, diminishing support systems can result in poor health outcomes and the presence of an intimate partner relationship can positively impact physical health, including influencing pain severity. The number of adults in the United States over 65 is expected to double by 2030, meaning that a significant portion of the population will be entering a stage of increased healthcare utilization. Therefore, behaviors which improve physical health will only become increasingly important over time. While previous research has pointed to the salience of intimate partner relationships on both shaping healthy behavior, as well as on pain outcomes, this project sought to bridge a gap in the current research by examining both relationship satisfaction and relationship status, and the indirect effects of health behaviors on pain outcomes in older adults. This study utilized data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging project to test a theoretical moderated mediation model. It was hypothesized that 1) relationship quality would be negatively associated with pain severity 2) healthy behaviors would mediate the negative relationship between relationship quality and pain severity; and 3) relationship status would moderate the effect of relationship quality on health behaviors and, subsequently, the extent of the mediation between relationship quality and pain severity. While analyses did not support the full model, data did show a trend effect such that those who report higher initial relationship satisfaction tended to report lower levels of physical pain. Furthermore, additional analyses found that, for female-identified individuals, relationship satisfaction significantly predicted later pain severity, with additional gendered differences in specific health behaviors. Result of this study suggest that older adulthood is a dynamic and complex stage of life, influenced by a myriad of factors which should inform both clinical practice and future research. Limitations and future directions are discussed.

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