Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Does caregiving cause psychological stress? It depends, says study of female twins

Date:
January 30, 2014
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
A newly published study shows that the associations between caregiving and different types of psychological distress (depression, anxiety, perceived stress and perceived mental health) depend largely on a person's genes and upbringing -- and less so on the difficulty of caregiving.

When it comes to life's stressors, most people would put caregiving at the top of the list. But according to Peter Vitaliano, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Washington (UW), there never have been data actually showing caregiving causes psychological distress. So he, and other researchers at the UW conducted a study of about 1,228 female twins, some were caregivers, and some were not. The results were somewhat surprising.

The study, "Does caregiving cause psychological distress? The case for familial and genetic vulnerabilities in female twins," was published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine in January 2014 and showed that the associations between caregiving and different types of psychological distress (depression, anxiety, perceived stress and perceived mental health) depend largely on a person's genes and upbringing -- and less so on the difficulty of caregiving.

Did the person have a history of depression before being a caregiver? If so, "caregiving may be like putting salt on the wound," said Vitaliano. If there's no depression in the past, caregivers don't seem more affected by depression than noncaregivers.

Depression and perceived mental health are the most influenced by genes, said Vitaliano. Anxiety is most related to caregiving, and people who don't get relief from anxiety are more likely to become depressed, he noted.

Perceived stress, meanwhile, is almost exclusively related to the kind of environment a person was raised in, not genetics or caregiver status, he said. If a person grows up in a home where one's parents show lots of avoidance and fear in response to a lost job or sickness , then he or she will likely model that behavior.

Vitaliano said these results break the long-held belief that caregiving directly causes distress. He noted that since 1953 there have been more than a thousand papers on distress among caregivers without any data showing causality.

By examining twin pairs -- both monozygotic (identical from same fertilized egg) and dizygotic (fraternal from separate fertilized eggs) -- UW researchers assessed the extent psychological distress is related to caregiving, or confounded by common genes and environmental exposure. The study focused exclusively on female twins (408 monozygotic and 206 dizygotic pairs), of which 188 were caregivers. Not enough male caregivers were found to be included in the analyses.

The study comes out as chronic diseases are rising rapidly and Alzheimer's disease is called "the disease of the century" -- expected to rise from 5 million victims in 2008 to 12 million in 2030. As a result, more and more people will become caregivers.

Because health care funds are limited, Vitaliano hopes that treatment interventions and policies will be targeted towards caregivers who are at the highest risk.

Vitaliano said he had long predicted that caregiving doesn't directly cause distress.

Based on findings for a paper he and colleagues wrote more than 20 years ago on diathesis -- a Greek term for disposition or vulnerability, Vitaliano argues that psychiatric states and psychological outcomes are a function of exposure to stressors and vulnerabilities (early family environment, genetic factors, disposition). How one responds to stressors also depends on a person's resources (coping, social supports, income).

Vitaliano said his past research has also shown that caregivers' stress hormone levels are especially high relative to other caregivers if they are high in dispositions, such as neuroticism and disagreeableness. He has also found that caregivers with chronic illnesses such as heart disease or cancer have more physical problems with their illnesses than do noncaregivers with chronic physical illnesses.

Eric Strachan in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Elizabeth Dansie in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine and Jack Goldberg and Dedra Buchwald in the Department of Medicine at the UW were co-authors on the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Vitaliano PP, Strachan E, Dansie E, Goldberg J, Buchwald D. Does Caregiving Cause Psychological Distress? The Case for Familial and Genetic Vulnerabilities in Female Twins. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, January 2014

Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Does caregiving cause psychological stress? It depends, says study of female twins." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140130141352.htm>.
University of Washington. (2014, January 30). Does caregiving cause psychological stress? It depends, says study of female twins. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140130141352.htm
University of Washington. "Does caregiving cause psychological stress? It depends, says study of female twins." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140130141352.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins