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Empathy in informal dementia caregivers and its relationship with depression, anxiety, and burden

Background/Objective: Recent interventions aim to heighten informal caregivers' empathy levels assuming that this will lead to better well-being. However, previous studies have explored linear associations between empathy and aspects of well-being and yielded mixed results. We hypothesized that quadratic models may be more fitting to describe these relationships. Method: A cross-sectional study, with two groups (201 informal caregivers, and 187 non-caregivers) was conducted. Participants completed questionnaires on cognitive and affective empathy, and depression, anxiety, and caregiver burden. AN(C)OVA's and multiple hierarchical regression analyses including linear and quadratic terms were used to analyze the data. Results: For caregivers, there was a negative quadratic relationship between depression and cognitive empathy, and a positive linear relationship between anxiety and affective empathy, irrespective of sociodemographic characteristics. For non-caregivers, there were positive quadratic relationships between depression and cognitive and affective empathy, and between anxiety and affective empathy. The empathy levels did not differ between the groups. Conclusions: While caregivers and non-caregivers had the same amount of empathy, the relationships between empathy and depression and anxiety differed between the groups. Interventions for informal caregivers could aim to heighten cognitive empathy and to lower affective empathy to diminish depression and anxiety symptoms. 

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Journal article
Elsevier B V
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International Journal of Clinical & Health Psychology
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