Reverberations of family illness: a longitudinal assessment of informal caregiving and mental health status in the Nurses' Health Study

Am J Public Health. 2002 Aug;92(8):1305-11. doi: 10.2105/ajph.92.8.1305.


Objectives: . This study examined the association between caregiving for disabled or ill family members, estimated to occur in more than 22 million US households, and change in mental health.

Methods: We assessed 4-year change in mental health among 37 742 Nurses' Health Study participants with the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form 36.

Results: Women who provided 36 or more weekly hours of care to a disabled spouse were almost 6 times more likely than noncaregivers to experience depressive or anxious symptoms (multivariate odds ratio [OR] = 5.6; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 3.8, 8.3). Caring for a disabled or ill parent (>or= 36 weekly hours) was associated with a less dramatic elevation in depressive or anxious symptoms (multivariate OR = 2.0; 95% CI = 0.9, 4.3).

Conclusions: In this population, caregiving was associated with increased risk of depressive or anxious symptoms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Caregivers / classification
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost of Illness
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Home Nursing / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Parents
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • Spouses
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Women's Health*