Man showing depressive symptoms

Caring for patients with cancer can be a stressful situation for caregivers. In a study published in Cancer, researchers found out that depressive symptoms among caregivers were associated with the decline in their physical health.

As a caregiver caring for patients with cancer, the entire situation can be very mentally challenging. The effects of stress and depressive symptoms on the caregiver’s health have not been well-studied.

In an article published in Cancer, a group of researchers led by Kelly Shaffer conducted a study to determine the changes in the physical health of caregivers 2 to 8 years after the relative’s cancer diagnosis and the several factors associated with it. A total of 664 caregivers who were at least 18 years old, fluent in either English or Spanish, and a resident of the United States were included in the study. A survey was administered at 2 years, 5 years, and 8 years after a relative’s cancer diagnosis was made. The following outcomes were measured: 1) caregiver’s demographics (age, sex, education, income, relationship to the patient, and employment status), 2) relative’s cancer severity and 3) caregiver psychosocial factors (caregiving stress, esteem, social support, and depressive symptoms).

The results of the study show that the physical health of the caregivers declined within 6 years after the relative’s cancer diagnosis.  Having high depressive symptoms was found to be the only factor associated with a significant decline in the caregivers’ physical health through the years. Attention should also be given to the mental health of the caregivers to prevent further decline in physical function.

Written by Karla Sevilla


Shaffer, K.M., et al. (2017). Depressive symptoms predict cancer caregivers’ physical health decline. Cancer. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30835

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