Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Research: Depression in Caregivers

Lehan et al. Distress associated with patients' symptoms and depression in a sample of Mexican caregivers of individuals with MS. Rehabil Psychol. 2012 Nov;57(4):301-7. doi: 10.1037/a0030764.

Purpose/Objective: The objectives of this quantitative correlational study were to: (a) determine the frequency and level of distress associated with patients' symptoms as reported by caregivers of individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS), (b) determine the prevalence of depression in these caregivers, and (c) examine the relationship between these caregivers' total symptom distress and depression after controlling for patient, caregiver, and illness characteristics. 

Method/Design: In this quantitative correlational study, data from 79 caregivers of individuals with MS in Mexico were analyzed. 

Results: The patient symptoms with the highest average level of distress for caregivers were depression, difficulty talking, difficulty hearing, becoming upset easily, and upsetting other people. Patient symptoms with the lowest average level of distress for caregivers included difficulty learning, seizures, trouble reading, difficulty eating, and difficulty writing. Forty percent of the caregivers met the criteria for probable major depressive disorder. Results showed that caregiver total symptom distress was significantly related to caregiver depression, after controlling for patient marital status, caregiver gender, caregiver relationship to patient, caregiver current employment, and months spent caregiving. 

Conclusions: These findings have implications for MS patients and caregivers as well as larger society, as depression in caregivers often results in the institutionalization of individuals with chronic illnesses and disabilities, which is costly for both individuals and society. In addition, there might be increased expenditures associated with the caregivers' own declining health. For these reasons, it is important to develop a better understanding of its risk factors to identify caregivers who might benefit from intervention. 

This is further indication that the cost of MS is not just the effect on the MSer. It is a shame that NICE does not take this into account when assessing the real value of expensive MS drugs. Obviously seek medical advise if you are your caregiver are feeling depressed.  


  1. Strange study with strange results. The lowest caregiver distress is with symptoms that cause least patient distress.
    "difficulty learning, seizures, trouble reading, difficulty eating," are very distressing for both the patient and caregiver

  2. This sort of research really confirms my view that a one way ticket to meet the nice people at Dignitas is my escape route. Not only does MS destroy the lives of the patient but screws up the lives of those who look after them. All the researchers need to do is find a treatment to stop protection and treatment to encourage repair. Unfortunately the MS research community doesn't operate on agile principles - bureaucracy, red tape and no appetite for risk tasking (well thought through risk taking) are the reasons why progress has been so slow. I hope those diagnosed in a decade's time will see the fruits from all the research underway.


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