Caregiver burden as a predictor of depression among family and friends who provide care for persons with bipolar disorder

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Abstract

Objectives:

Over one-third of caregivers of people with bipolar disorder report clinically significant levels of depressive symptoms. This study examined the causal relationship between depression and caregiver burden in a large sample of caregivers of adult patients with bipolar disorder.

Methods:

Participants were 500 primary caregivers of persons with bipolar disorder enrolled in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD).This study evaluates the strength and direction of the associations between caregiver burden and depressive symptoms at baseline and at six- and 12-month follow-up using cross-lagged panel analyses, controlling for the clinical status of patients and sociodemographic variables.

Results:

Higher levels of overall caregiver burden at baseline were associated with increased levels of depressive symptoms among caregivers at follow-up (F = 8.70, df = 1,290, p < 0.001), after controlling for baseline caregiver depression, gender, race, age, social support, and patients' clinical status. By contrast, caregiver depression at baseline was not significantly associated with caregiver burden at follow-up (F = 1.65, p = 0.20).

Conclusions:

Caregiver burden is a stronger predictor of caregiver depressive symptoms over time than the reverse. Interventions that help alleviate caregiver burden may decrease depressive symptoms.

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