Original Article

Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 198-207

Does Caregiving Cause Psychological Distress? The Case for Familial and Genetic Vulnerabilities in Female Twins

  • Peter P. VitalianoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington Email author 
  • , Eric StrachanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of WashingtonThe University of Washington Twin Registry
  • , Elizabeth DansieAffiliated withDepartment of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Washington
  • , Jack GoldbergAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology, University of WashingtonThe University of Washington Twin Registry
  • , Dedra BuchwaldAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology, University of WashingtonDepartment of Medicine, University of WashingtonThe University of Washington Twin RegistryCenter for Clinical and Epidemiological Research, University of Washington

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Abstract

Background

Informal caregiving can be deleterious to mental health, but research results are inconsistent and may reflect an interaction between caregiving and vulnerability to stress.

Methods

We examined psychological distress among 1,228 female caregiving and non-caregiving twins. By examining monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs discordant for caregiving, we assessed the extent to which distress is directly related to caregiving or confounded by common genes and environmental exposures.

Results

Caregiving was associated with distress as measured by mental health functioning, anxiety, perceived stress, and depression. The overall association between caregiving and distress was confounded by common genes and environment for mental health functioning, anxiety, and depression. Common environment also confounded the association of caregiving and perceived stress.

Conclusions

Vulnerability to distress is a factor in predicting caregivers' psychosocial functioning. Additional research is needed to explicate the mechanisms by which common genes and environment increase the risk of distress among informal caregivers.

Keywords

Twins Caregiving Psychological distress