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Caring for Individuals with Mental Illness: The Effects of Caregiver Stress on Symptoms of Depression Open Access

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Caring for Indivdiuals with Mental Illness: The Effects of Caregiver Stress on Symptoms of Depression The most recent national profile of family caregivers in the United States estimated that there are at least 8.4 million Americans aged 18 or above providing care to an adult with an emotional or mental health issue (National Alliance for Caregiving, 2015). The limited volume of studies on the mental health of family caregivers who provided unpaid care for a loved one with a mental health problem and accordant functional impairment suggest that they experience high levels of stress associated with caregiving and subsequently its negative attributes such as depression. The present study investigated the association between caregiver stress and symptoms of depression in adult family caregivers of individuals with mental illness living in the United States guided by a revised theoretical framework (i.e., stress process model originally developed by Pearlin and his colleagues [1990] and informed by Lefley [1996]). The study employed a cross-sectional, correlational study design to examine the relationship between caregiver stress (i.e., disruptive behavioral problems, grief and loss, social isolation, and global emotional support) and symptoms of depression in family caregivers. Data were collected using a web-based, self-report survey from 533 adult family caregivers of individuals with mental illness across the United States. Latent variable path analyses indicated that grief and loss, lack of global emotional support, and disruptive behavioral problems perceived by family caregivers were positively associated with elevated levels of symptoms of depression. In contrast to predictions, increased levels of social isolation perceived by family caregivers were negatively associated with symptoms of depression. Multigroup latent variable structural invariance testing revealed that the positive relationship between grief and loss, and symptoms of depression was invariant across two groups by type of the relationship (i.e., immediate or non-immediate relationship) between caregiver and care recipient. Results are discussed in the context of clinical prevention and interventions.

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