In any given year, an estimated 29% of the United States population, or 65 million people, are caregivers. The typical caregiver spends 20 hours or more each week providing unpaid care to someone aged 50 years or older. The National Family Caregiving Association found that 61% of caregivers providing at least 20 hours of caregiving per week suffered from depression.
Research shows that caregiver depression is a complex interplay of medical, social, and economic factors. Several studies suggest that caregivers with poorer health, or fewer financial resources, are at higher risk for depression.The high incidence of depression among caregivers profoundly affects their physical health, particularly in regard to immune function. There is strong evidence that difficult patient behaviors such as anger and aggressiveness influence caregiver depression more so than cognitive impairment.
Tips to Offset Trends
Covinsky, K.E. et. al (2003). Patient and Caregiver Characteristics Associated with Depression in Caregivers of Patients with Dementia. General Internal Medicine, 18(12), 1006-1014.
Robison J, et. al. (2009). A broader view of family caregiving: effects of caregiving and caregiver conditions on depressive symptoms, health, work, and social isolation. Journal of Gerontology B Series. Psychological Science, 64(6):788-798.
Editorial Note: Dr. Deborah Serani is the author of Living with Depression" by The Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group.