This study assessed the impact of depressive symptoms and distress from patient problem behaviors on time to developing a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in a sample of 643 dementia family caregivers. A longitudinal, prospective design was used. Over an 18-month period, caregivers free from a CVD diagnosis at baseline were assessed at 6, 12, and 18-month follow-ups for the onset of CVD. Main Outcome Measures: Days to the onset of CVD was the primary outcome.
Over the length of the study, 32 participants (5%) reported a diagnosis of CVD. After adjusting for sociodemographic and health factors (e.g., high blood pressure, age, smoking history), greater depressive symptoms ( p = .040) and distress from patient problem behaviors ( p =.034) were significant predictors of time to CVD diagnosis.
This study suggests that increased depressive symptoms and reaction to patient problem behaviors (i.e., distress) may increase caregivers’ risk for experiencing negative health outcomes, specifically CVD. In sum, the current study provides preliminary evidence that depression and distress, conceptualized as reaction to care recipient problem behaviors, may shorten the time it takes caregivers to develop cardiovascular disease. Although this risk is relatively low during an 18-month follow-up period, the absence of early detection and prevention of depression and emotional distress may place caregivers at higher risk for early mortality.