Objective: To identify and summarise studies of the psychological well-being of informal carers of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Design: The review included studies if they reported the carers perspective of caregiving – studies that focused mostly on the person with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were included only if the carers perspective of the caregiver role could be extracted.
Data sources: Electronic searches of MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsychInfo, Sociological Abstracts and The Cochrane Library were carried out between December 2008 and February 2009, with update searches undertaken in June 2011.
Review methods: A narrative approach was adopted to evaluate studies according to their contribution and drew together evidence from a range of methodologies, including qualitative and quantitative studies.
Results: Twenty studies were included in this review. Twelve studies focuses only on the caregiver (quantitative studies = 7 and qualitative studies = 5) and eight included caregivers and the person with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (quantitative = 6 and qualitative = 2). Common methodological limitations of studies included in this review were a lack of non-caregiver age-matched comparison groups, focus on the experience of female carers, small sample sizes, and failure to follow-up caregivers longitudinally. Seven studies provided estimates of the prevalence of psychological distress among caregivers but no conclusions could be drawn from the current evidence base. The totality of the current evidence-base suggests that many factors are related to caregiver psychological distress, but it is not possible to gauge the prevalence of this at present.
Conclusion: Further studies are needed to clarify the prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease caregivers’ psychological comorbidity and disease specific factors that predict poorer carer health outcomes. That work will enable appropriate interventions to be developed and evaluated.