Prevalence and predictors of depressive symptoms among cancer caregivers 5 years after the relative's cancer diagnosis

Youngmee Kim, Kelly M. Shaffer, Charles S. Carver, Rachel S. Cannady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objective: Few studies address the longer term psychological adjustment of family caregivers who provide care to a relative with cancer. This study aimed to document levels of depressive symptoms among caregivers 5 years after their relative's initial diagnosis and to identify psychosocial factors that may prospectively predict caregivers' depressive symptoms at that time. Method: Cancer caregivers participated in a prospective longitudinal study (N = 416; mean age = 55, 65.4% female, 92.9% non-Hispanic White). Demographics and caregiving experiences were measured 2 years after their relative's cancer diagnosis at Time 1 (T1). Depressive symptoms were assessed with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression scale (Radloff, 1977) at T1 and again at 5 years postdiagnosis (T2). By T2, caregivers had emerged into 3 groups: former caregivers whose recipients were now in remission, current caregivers, and bereaved caregivers. Results: Controlling for T1 depressive symptoms, T1 caregiving stress and lack of social support were both significant prospective predictors of greater depressive symptoms at T2 (ps <.02). Independently, bereaved caregivers reported the greatest depressive symptoms both prior to and after the relative's death. Those who were actively caregiving at T2 displayed the largest increase in depressive symptoms from T1 to T2 (p <.001). Conclusions: The findings highlight the importance of caregiving stress and social support early in caregivership, even for outcomes that emerge 3 years later. Findings suggest that family members who are actively involved in cancer care at the 5-year mark may benefit from programs designed to improve their adjustment to long-term caregiving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of consulting and clinical psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • bereavement
  • caregivers
  • depression
  • long-term effects
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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