Partners of persons with severe swallowing dysfunction have significantly reduced mental health

Yuval Nachalon*, Nogah Nativ-Zeltzer, Shumon I. Dhar, Daniel J. Cates, Isabella W. Leon, Lisa M. Evangelista, Peter C. Belafsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Dysphagia can result in malnutrition, dehydration, social isolation, depression, pneumonia, pulmonary abscess, and death. The effect of dysphagia on the health and quality of life (QOL) of the life partners of persons with dysphagia is uncertain. We hypothesize that the partners of individuals with significant dysphagia will experience a significant reduction in quality of life. Purpose: To evaluate the QOL of the significant others of persons with swallowing dysfunction. Methodology: Persons with significant swallowing dysfunction (defined as EAT10® > 10) and their significant others were prospectively administered the 10-item Eating Assessment Tool (EAT10®) patient-reported outcome measure and the 12-item SF quality of life instrument (SF12). Summary data from the 8 mean health domains were compared between patients and their significant others. Mean scores for each domain are calibrated at 50, and a score below 47 implies significantly diminished QOL for a particular domain. Results: Twenty-three couples were evaluated. The mean ± SD EAT10 score for persons with significant dysphagia was 21 ± 7; mean EAT10 for their significant others or for couples in the control group was 0.3 ± 0.8. The mean physical health composite score (PCS) was significantly lower for patients with dysphagia compared to their significant others (39.1 ± 10 and 46.2 ± 11, respectively) (p < 0.05). Both patients and their significant others had comparable mean mental health composite scores (MCS) of 46.6 ± 10 and 46.4 ± 10, respectively (p > 0.05). Conclusion: Although significant others of persons with swallowing dysfunction have higher physical well-being than their partners, they exhibit the same reduction in mental well-being, which is significantly lower than the general population. The data suggest that clinicians should address the mental well-being of the partners of persons with severe swallowing dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number519
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Couple
  • Dysphagia
  • EAT10
  • Quality of life
  • SF12
  • Spouse
  • Well-being


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