Background: Many caregivers with chronically ill relatives suffer from depression. However, the relationship of depression to other outcomes of chronic caregiving remains unclear. This study tested a hypothesized model which proposed that hours of care, stressful life events, social support, age and gender would predict caregivers' outcomes through perceived caregiver stress. Depression was expected to mediate the relationship between perceived stress and outcomes of chronic caregiving (physical function, self-esteem, and marital satisfaction).
Methods: The sample for this secondary data analysis consisted of 236 and 271 subjects from the Americans' Changing Lives, Wave 1, 1986, and Wave 2, 1989, data sets. Measures were constructed from the original study. Structural equation modeling was used to test the hypothesized model, and an exploratory structural modeling method, specification search, was used to develop a data-derived model. Cross-validation was used to verify the paths among variables.
Results: Hours of care, age, and gender predicted caregivers' outcomes directly or through perceived caregiver stress (p < .01). Depression mediated the relationship between perceived stress and psychological outcomes and explained 40% and 11% of the variance in self-esteem and marital satisfaction, respectively.
Conclusion: Depression predicted psychological outcomes. Whether depression predicts physical health outcomes needs to be further explored.