Worry as a risk factor for mental and somatic diseases. A research on home-cared cancer patients family caregivers

G Ital Med Lav Ergon. 2012 Apr-Jun;34(2 Suppl B):B17-22.


Objective: Cancer patients family caregivers are exposed to several physical and emotional distress. Many recent reviews have provided strong evidence linking negative affective states and dispositions to disease. Moreover, several recent studies suggested that perseverative cognition, as manifested in worry, plays a role in nearly all anxiety disorders and is a crucial factor in somatic health as well. In this study, we tested a group of family caregivers since we wanted to find out whether worry might act directly on psychological and somatic diseases.

Methods: The sample consists of 107 family caregivers. Participants completed a battery of self-report questionnaires including the Caregiver Burden Inventory, the Penn State Worry Questionnaire, the Psychophysiological Questionnaire and the Beck Depression Inventory. They underwent tests at the moment of oncological home-care request.

Results: The study has revealed that there is a significant positive correlation between worry measures and mental and physical health of the participants. In fact, the tendency to perseverative cognition resulted as a powerful and solid predictor of physical symptomatology (R = 0.5, beta = 0.67, p < 0.001) and depression level (R = 0.46, beta = 0.52, p < 0.000001).

Conclusions: Worry plays an important role in psychological and physical health and it is a counterproductive attempt at constructive mental problem solving. These results have great practical and operative value. Interventions improving caregiver's ability to cope with stress situations are likely to result in more positive benefits for cancer patients: in fact, if we promote the caregiver's physical and emotional well-being, he or she can provide the best care possible to the patient.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Caregivers / statistics & numerical data
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Home Care Services* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Long-Term Care / psychology*
  • Long-Term Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Sampling Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires