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Caregivers may face depression, anxiety, study finds

Posted on 02-24-2017 Posted in Anxiety, Anxiety Treatment, Depression Rehab - 0 Comments

At some point in their lives, most people are going to find themselves caring for a loved one. Whether due to disease, disability or just the effects of age, the average person is likely to join the ranks of what the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) estimates to be around 44 million unpaid family caregivers. These caregivers provide 37 billion hours of unpaid, informal care to family and friends each year.

As America ages, the country’s caregiver population has increased as well. A 2013 report from Pew Research Center found the percentage of U.S. adults identifying themselves as caregivers climbed from 27 percent in 2010 to 36 percent in 2013. Although an additional Pew report found that many caregivers find their tasks rewarding, giving care to an ailing parent or loved one can still be very stressful for some.

A recent study from the University of Missouri’s (UM) School of Medicine examined the mental health needs of caregivers and found that not only were stress and depression somewhat common in caregivers, but their psychological needs were often going unaddressed.

Depression, anxiety common in caregivers

The researchers started by assessing depression and anxiety in nearly 400 family caregivers. Data from their assessments found 23 percent of the caregivers were moderately or severely depressed. The caregivers also reported anxiety as well – 33 percent of them had moderate to severe anxiety.

Additionally, the researchers also found that the caregivers had risk factors of depression and anxiety – particularly if they were younger. “We found that younger caregivers were more likely to be depressed or anxious,” said lead author Debra Parker-Oliver, Ph.D. in a UM press release. “We also found that caregivers who are married and caring for a family member with a diagnosis other than cancer, such as Alzheimer’s disease, had higher levels of depression,” added Parker-Oliver.

Parker-Oliver suggests that the lack of resources for depressed family caregivers is partially due to an assumption that the caregivers aren’t part of the focus of care. “Health providers usually are more focused on the terminally ill patient instead of the entire family. However, in many scenarios, it is a family disease. It’s fair to say they have two patients: the caregiver and the person who is terminally ill,” Parker-Oliver said.

Additional studies have shown depression and anxiety aren’t the only risks caregivers face. A study which appeared in the Journal of Addictive Diseases in 2010 found that caregivers who experience stress and social isolation from caregiving are at risk for alcohol abuse.

Caregivers can’t neglect their own health needs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that caregivers are at risk for:

  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • A higher use of medications
  • Poor immune function
  • An increased risk of early death
  • Poor physical health

However, the CDC also says caregiving can provide real benefits to a caregiver, including sensations of fulfillment, learning more about the meaning and value of life, and increasing one’s social network.

Anxiety and depression aren’t just bad moods – they’re actual mental disorders. Left untreated, these can wreak havoc in a life, which may already be stretched thin due to the obligations of being a caregiver. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states around 20 percent of people with an anxiety or a depressive disorder also have a substance use disorder. This combination of disorders, known as a dual diagnosis, is a serious condition requiring professional treatment.

Sovereign Health of Florida is a leading provider of mental health and substance use disorders in Florida. Our treatment centers in Fort Myers and Pompano Beach provide two welcoming, comfortable retreats for patients looking to move past their difficulties into a healthier life. We make use of effective, evidence-based treatment to ensure our patients have the best chance at a full recovery.

Taking care of another person is noble, but don’t neglect your own health – call Sovereign’s 24/7 helpline for more information.

About the Author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for Sovereign Health. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at

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