Subjective caregiver burden and depressive symptoms in carers of older relatives

Current trends in population aging in many countries mean that as the population of older people increases so does the need for provision of informal care by family members. Family carers are an important source of care for older people, however, although several studies have reported that subjective caregiver burden is related to depressive symptoms there are no systematic reviews quantifying this association.

For this reason, members of our research group within the line Caregivers and informal and family care, have recently conducted a study to establish the extent to which subjective caregiver burden is associated with depressive symptoms and whether this association would vary by study or care characteristics.

For this purpose, a meta-analysis of 55 studies was conducted that provided a total of 56 independent comparisons with a total of 9,847 carers from data across 20 countries. There was a large, positive association between subjective caregiver burden and depressive symptoms, with very low heterogeneity amongst individual studies. A higher effect was found  for those caring for people living with dementia compared to those caring for frail older people, and stroke survivors. Carer sex, age and kinship did not change the estimate of the effect.

Findings suggest that subjective caregiver burden is a significant risk factor for depressive symptoms in carers of older people and may precipitate clinical depression. Those caring for people with dementia experience greater burden. Therefore, there is a need for longitudinal evaluations examining the effects of potential mediators of the association of subjective burden and depressive symptoms, and future interventions should test whether minimizing subjective burden may modify the risk of developing depression in carers of older relatives.

The full text is available at: del-Pino-Casado R, Rodríguez-Cardosa M, López-Martínez C, Orgeta V. The association between subjective caregiver burden and depressive symptoms in carers of older relatives: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS ONE. 2019;14(5): e0217648.

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