Family caregiving in depression: impact on caregivers' daily life, distress, and help seeking

J Affect Disord. 2004 Sep;81(3):211-22. doi: 10.1016/S0165-0327(03)00168-X.


Background: Attention to caregiving consequences has been mainly restricted to schizophrenia, although studies suggest that relatives of depressed patients also experience considerable distress. These studies, however, were conducted on small samples or with nonvalidated instruments. In our study, the caregiving consequences of 260 spouses and relatives of depressed patients were assessed with a well-validated 31-item questionnaire, the Involvement Evaluation Questionnaire (IEQ).

Methods: The IEQ was mailed to spouses and relatives of patients with major depression, dysthymic disorder, or other depressive disorders. Other instruments used were the Ways of Coping Checklist (WCC), a Dutch Social Support Questionnaire, and the Zung Self-rating Depression Scale (SDS).

Results: About 25-50% of caregivers worried about the patient's general health, treatment, safety, and future. They had to urge the patient to undertake activities, or took over tasks. There were relational strains, and they felt burdened, especially when the patient was in an acute phase. Caregivers often felt distressed and had to visit a (mental) health practitioner. Also, children were affected; caregivers reported high levels of difficult behavior, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, less playing, and less attention at school. Caregiving consequences occur less often than in schizophrenia, but the patterns are quite comparable.

Conclusions: Caregiving consequences in depression occur frequently and cause distress in caregivers and patient's children. Attention should be paid to support relatives and spouses of depressed patients. Special attention should be paid to patient's children.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychometrics
  • Safety
  • Stress, Psychological*