Partners can be beneficial for patients experiencing stressful health events such as a stroke/transient ischemic attack (TIA). During such events, however, partners may exacerbate early distress. The present study tested whether having a cohabiting partner modified the association between patients’ early perceptions of threat (e.g., feeling vulnerable, helpless) and longer-term posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS).
Participants (N = 328) were drawn from an observational cohort study of patients evaluated for stroke/TIA at an urban academic hospital between 2016 and 2019. Participants self-reported emergency department (ED) threat perceptions and PTSS secondary to the stroke/TIA at three days and one month post-event.
Cohabiting partner status modified the association of ED threat with early PTSS. Patients with a cohabiting partner exhibited a positive association between ED threat and early PTSS, B = 0.12, p < .001; those without a cohabiting partner did not, B = 0.04, p = .067. A cohabiting partner was protective only for patients who initially reported low levels of ED threat, as patients with a cohabiting partner who reported low levels of ED threat also had lower early PTSS, B = -0.15, p = .016; at high levels of ED threat, a cohabiting partner was not protective, B = -0.02, p = .68. ED threat was associated with PTSS at one month, B = 0.42, p < .001, but cohabiting partner status did not modify the association.
ED threat perceptions were positively associated with early PTSS only for patients with a cohabiting partner. For patients who do not initially experience a stroke/TIA event as threatening, cohabiting partners may help patients maintain psychological equanimity.

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