The effect of spousal caregiving and bereavement on depressive symptoms

TitleThe effect of spousal caregiving and bereavement on depressive symptoms
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsTaylor, Jr., DH, Kuchibhatla, M, Ostbye, T, Plassman, BL, Clipp, EC
JournalAging & Mental Health
Pagination100 - 107
Date PublishedJan-01-2008
ISSN Number1360-7863
KeywordsBereavement, Caregiving, Depressive symptoms, Marriage, Mortality, Older Adults

The objective of the study was to determine whether spousal caregiving and bereavement increases caregiver depressive symptoms. We followed 1,967 community-dwelling elderly couples from the 1993 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) until 2002 (five bi-annual surveys) or death. Depressive symptoms were measured by the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CESD) scale. Adjusted depressive symptoms were higher for females for three of the four caregiving arrangements tested (as were unadjusted baseline levels). Depressive symptoms were lowest when neither spouse received caregiving (adjusted CESD of 2.97 for males; 3.44 for females, p < 0.001). They were highest when females provided care to their husband with assistance from another caregiver, (4.01) compared to (3.37; p < 0.001) when males so cared for their wife. A gender by caregiving arrangements interaction was not significant (p = 0.13), showing no differential effect of caregiving on CESD by gender. Depressive symptoms peaked for bereaved spouses within three months of spousal death (4.67; p < 0.001) but declined steadily to 2.75 (p < 0.001) more than 15 months after death. Depressive symptoms initially increased for the community spouse after institutionalization of the care recipient, but later declined. We conclude that caregiving increases depressive symptoms in the caregiver, but does not have a differential effect by gender. Increases in depressive symptoms following bereavement are short-term.

Short TitleAging & Mental Health
Citation Key8768