Carnegie Mellon University

Relationships and Health Study


The purpose of this research is to learn more about the way couples think, feel and behave in their marriages in older adulthood. Since prior research has shown that relationships are very important for our health and well-being, this project focuses on determining why this is the case.

Participant Criteria

The Relationships and Health Study works with married couples in which at least one member of the couple is 65 years of age or older. Couple members may not be on any type of Beta Blocker medication as that will affect the physiological data we are acquiring.

Session Outline

Couples visit the Carnegie Mellon University Relationships Lab for 2 separate sessions. During the first session, spouses visit the lab together to complete a series of questionnaires. These questionnaires include topics such as a couple’s relationship and each couple member’s personality, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs. At the end of the first session, couples are scheduled to return 1 week later for the second session.

During the second session, spouses visit the lab together to participate in various activities. For example, couple members will have discussions with one another and play games. All of these activities are normal, everyday things that couples experience in their daily lives. To measure the body’s reactions to each activity, we’ll ask each couple member to wear a blood pressure cuff and some sensors that will be attached to the torso, back, and hand to monitor heart rate, respiration, and perspiration. Some of the activities are videotaped, but couples will have an opportunity to erase their tape at the end of the study if they wish to do so.

At the end of the second session, each couple member receives an electronic diary to take home for a week. On these diaries, there is a short survey that each couple member will fill out each evening for seven days. It only takes about 15-20 minutes to do so.

One and two years later, we will contact each couple again to complete additional follow-up surveys by mail.

All the information that each couple provides throughout the study is kept strictly confidential and anonymous. No couple member’s name is associated with any of the information. The information is labeled only with a random code number, which will not be in any way connected to anyone's identity. All information that couples provide will be used only in the form of summaries that are combined across all couples who participate in the study. In our publications, we report only general trends in the ways in which couples think, feel and behave in their relationships.


To thank couples for their participation, they will receive payment after each session for contributing their time.


To participate in this study, for more eligibility criteria, and for more information, please contact Shelby Parsons (Lab Manager) at 412-268-8109 or

This research is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, and has been approved by the Carnegie Mellon University Institutional Review Board.