This study aimed to further elucidate the biobehavioral mechanisms linking dementia caregiving with an increased cardiovascular disease risk. We hypothesized that both elevated depressive symptoms and a behavioral correlate of depression, low leisure satisfaction, are associated with systemic inflammation.Method.
We studied 121 elderly Alzheimer’s disease caregivers who underwent 4 annual assessments for depressive symptoms, leisure satisfaction, and circulating levels of inflammatory markers. We used mixed-regression analyses controlling for sociodemographic and health-relevant covariates to examine longitudinal relationships between constructs of interest.Results.
There were inverse relationships between total leisure satisfaction and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α; p = .047), interleukin-8 (IL-8; p < .001), and interferon-γ (IFG; p = .020) but not with IL-6 (p = .21) and C-reactive protein (p = .65). Lower enjoyment from leisure activities was related to higher levels of TNF-α (p = .045), IL-8 (p < .001), and IFG (p = .002), whereas lower frequency of leisure activities was related only to higher IL-8 levels (p = .023). Depressive symptoms were not associated with any inflammatory marker (all p values > .17). Depressive symptoms did not mediate the relationship between leisure satisfaction and inflammation.Discussion.
Lower satisfaction with leisure activities is related to higher low-grade systemic inflammation. This knowledge may provide a promising way of improving cardiovascular health in dementia caregivers through behavioral activation treatments targeting low leisure satisfaction.