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Specific effects of caring for a spouse with dementia: differences in depressive symptoms between caregiver and non-caregiver spouses

  • Kathryn Betts Adams (a1)

Background: Caring for spouses with dementia is a risk factor for increased levels of depression. Less is known about specific symptom differences between groups of caregivers and non-caregivers. This study characterizes differences on the CES-D depression screening scale between caregiving and non-caregiving spouses.

Methods: Data were obtained from 391 spouse caregivers of persons with dementia and 226 control subjects. Significant between-group differences on demographic variables determined covariates used in two multivariate ANCOVA analyses, on the set of four CES-D subscales and on the set of the 20 CES-D individual items. Significant multivariate analyses were followed by univariate tests between the two groups.

Results: Dementia caregiving spouses had significantly more depressive symptoms than non-caregiving married adults, after controlling for group differences. Proportion of variance in the set of CES-D subscales explained by caregiver group status was 13.4%. The greatest between-groups difference in univariate analysis was found in the Positive Affect subscale, and significant differences were found in 11 of the 20 CES-D items. Caregiver spouses experienced less hope for the future and less happiness and enjoyment in life than the non-caregiving spouses. They also reported greater degrees of sadness, being bothered, and loneliness than the non-caregivers.

Conclusions: The differences, particularly caregivers' lack of positive affect, suggest the need for appropriate intervention approaches to assist spouse caregivers.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: Dr. Kathryn Betts Adams, Assistant Professor of Social Work, The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, 10600 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, U.S.A. Phone: +1 216 368 6155. Email:
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International Psychogeriatrics
  • ISSN: 1041-6102
  • EISSN: 1741-203X
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