A Longitudinal Observational Study of Multimorbidity and Partner Support for Physical Activity Among People with Osteoarthritis

Katrina R. Ellis, Carmen C. Cuthbertson, Dana Carthron, Shelby Rimmler, Nisha C. Gottfredson, Stephanie G. Bahorski, Ashley Phillips, Giselle Corbie-Smith, Leigh Callahan, Christine Rini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Physical activity can improve osteoarthritis-related symptoms; however, many people with osteoarthritis (PWOA) are insufficiently active. Social support for physical activity from an intimate partner can help PWOA increase activity, but managing multiple, chronic physical or mental health conditions (i.e., multimorbidity) may influence provision and receipt of that support. Method: Data from a 1-year longitudinal observational study was used to examine associations between multimorbidity and three dimensions of partner support for physical activity—companionship partner support (doing activity together), enacted partner support, and social support effectiveness—in 169 insufficiently active PWOA and their partners. Results: Multivariable-adjusted multi-level models indicated baseline differences in support by multimorbidity status: when partners had multimorbidity, PWOA reported receiving less companionship support and less effective support from partners; when PWOA had multimorbidity, partners reported providing less enacted support and both partners and PWOA reported less effective partner support. Broad trends (p <.05) indicate initial increases and subsequent decreases in companionship and enacted partner support when PWOA had multimorbidity, and among partners with and without multimorbidity. When PWOA had multimorbidity, an initial increase in support effectiveness was followed by no significant change; a similar trend was seen among partners with and without multimorbidity. Conclusion: Multimorbidity may generally contribute to less partner support for physical activity or less effective support, although influences on support over time are less clear. Physical activity interventions for couples experiencing multimorbidity would likely benefit from attention to the impact of multiple chronic health conditions on physical activity and physical activity–related partner support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)746-758
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Couples
  • Dyad
  • Multimorbidity
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Physical activity
  • Social support


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