Background: Caregiving for people with dementia has consistently been linked with psychological problems, usually in terms of caregiver burden, general psychological distress and depressive symptomatology, while morbidity due to anxiety has been relatively neglected in this group.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review of the literature, searching electronic databases, reference lists, relevant systematic reviews and contacting experts in the field. We used Centre for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) criteria for inclusion and rating the validity of all studies that reported (1) the prevalence, predictors and covariates of anxiety disorders or anxiety caseness, and (2) covariates and predictors of the level of anxiety symptoms.
Results: Thirty-three studies met our inclusion criteria. Clinically, significant anxiety affects about a quarter of caregivers for people with dementia and was more common than in matched controls. Such caregivers have higher anxiety levels than controls, and that confrontative and escape avoidance coping, caregiver burden and poorer caregiver physical health are factors associated with higher anxiety levels from cross-sectional studies.
Conclusions: Coping style may be more associated with anxiety than depression while other covariates (burden and poor physical health) are similar to those for caregiver depression. We found no conclusive evidence about factors associated with anxiety disorders or predicting anxiety from longitudinal studies. Neither care recipient cognition nor ADL impairment; nor caregiver age nor duration of caring are associated with caregiver anxiety levels. Good quality cohort studies are needed to determine whether these factors also predict anxiety disorders.