Caring for a dependent relative is a challenge for families and especially for caregivers who assume most or all of the caregiving responsibilities. Ongoing care of a dependent relative can lead to stressful situations that alter the caregiver’s mental health, resulting in emotional problems such as depression. The way in which these carers face and cope with these stressful situations may be crucial in determining the occurrence of these mental health outcomes, and therefore the occurrence of depression.
In order to analyse the relationships that exist between ways of coping with caring for this dependent relative and depressive symptoms, we carried out a systematic review of the scientific literature on the subject and analysed the results of the 59 studies found together using the meta-analysis technique.
The results show that flight-avoidance-avoidance coping strategies are strongly related to the presence of depressive symptoms in the caregiver. In particular, avoidance, denial, giving up, resignation, delusional thinking, self-blame or blaming others, venting and substance use (such as alcohol or drugs) may increase the risk of depressive symptoms.
However, emotion-focused strategies such as positive reappraisal (seeing the glass as half full) and acceptance of the situation were associated with fewer depressive symptoms in carers and may therefore act as protective factors. Similarly, the use of problem-focused strategies, especially efforts to solve the problem directly, especially if they are based on analysis and planning, may also be protective factors for the development of depression.
Therefore, these coping strategies should be taken into account in the care of carers and their measurement should be part of the initial assessment with a view to preventing depression. Furthermore, the above results justify the implementation of interventions for caregivers based on acceptance and commitment and problem solving for the prevention of depression.
Muñoz-Cruz, J. C., López-Martínez, C., Orgeta, V., & Del-Pino-Casado, R. (2023). Coping and depressive symptoms in family carers of dependent adults aged 18 and over: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Stress and Health, 1– 21. https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.3225 Link to article: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/smi.3225