Background: This study aimed to explore the psychological status and quality of life among primary caregivers of individuals suffering from various mental illnesses including early psychosis, chronic schizophrenia, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and dementia.
Methods: A total of 350 primary caregivers with relatives seeking treatment at a tertiary psychiatric hospital were recruited for this study. Socio-demographic data was obtained and the brief version of the World Health Organisation Quality of Life instrument was used to assess caregiver's quality of life (QOL). Psychological status among primary caregivers was assessed using the General Anxiety Disorder - 7 item (GAD-7) and Patient Health Questionnaire - 9 item (PHQ-9) scales. Family Interview Schedule (FIS) was used to assess the impact of caregiving relating to social problems, interpersonal strain among family members, work related problems and financial difficulties as a result of their relative's illness. The socio-demographic and clinical correlates of QOL, PHQ-9 and GAD-7 were examined using multiple linear and logistic regression analyses. Associations between QOL domains and psychological status was examined using multiple linear regression analyses.
Results: The mean age of the primary caregivers was 49.7 years (SD = 13.2), ranging from 21 to 82 years, with a preponderance of females (67.6%), aged 50-64 years old (45.7%). Majority were of Chinese ethnicity (57.5%), had secondary level education (43.1%), were married (65.2%), and employed (64.9%). 18.3% of primary caregivers had symptoms of depression (based on PHQ-9 cut-off point of 10 or greater) while 12.7% had symptoms of anxiety (based on GAD-7 cut-off point of 10 or greater). Multiple linear and logistic regression analyses revealed that primary caregivers aged between 35-49 years and 50-64 years, unemployed, living with others, providing care to those diagnosed with dementia and who had higher FIS scores were significantly more likely to report symptoms of depression whilst those who cared for their son/daughter were less likely to be associated with symptoms of depression. Primary caregivers who had lower education, were living with others, were single or divorced/separated, were unemployed and with higher FIS scores were associated with lower QOL domain scores. Those with symptoms of depression were significantly associated with low QOL across all four domains, whilst those with symptoms of anxiety were significantly associated with low QOL in the social relationships domain.
Conclusion: Psychological status of caregivers in the current study was associated with the various domains of QOL. In particular, caregivers' symptoms of depression were significantly associated with lower QOL across all four domains of QOL whereas symptoms of anxiety were associated with lower scores in the social relationships domain. The study suggests a need to provide caregivers with social support and psycho-education to improve the QOL as well as aid in developing healthy coping strategies.
Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Impact; Primary caregivers; Quality of life.