Negative and positive health effects of caring for a disabled spouse: longitudinal findings from the caregiver health effects study

Psychol Aging. 2000 Jun;15(2):259-71. doi: 10.1037//0882-7974.15.2.259.


Data from the first 2 waves of the Caregiver Health Effects Study (n = 680) were analyzed to examine the effects of changes in caregiving involvement on changes in caregiver health-related outcomes in a population-based sample of elders caring for a disabled spouse. Caregiving involvement was indexed by levels of (a) spouse physical impairment, (b) help provided to the spouse, and (c) strain associated with providing help. Health-related outcomes included perceived health, health-risk behaviors, anxiety symptoms, and depression symptoms. Increases in spouse impairment and caregiver strain were generally related to poorer outcomes over time (poorer perceived health, increased health-risk behaviors, and increased anxiety and depression), whereas increased helping was related to better outcomes (decreased anxiety and depression). Results suggest that caring for a disabled spouse is a complex phenomenon that can have both deleterious and beneficial consequences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Depression
  • Disabled Persons
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Spouses