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Distressed Partners and Caregivers Do Not Recover Easily: Adjustment Trajectories Among Partners and Caregivers of Cancer Survivors



Although a number of cross-sectional studies document the distress experienced by partners and caregivers of cancer survivors, few have considered their potential differential patterns of adjustment over time.


Identify distinct trajectories of anxiety and depression among partners and caregivers of cancer survivors and predictors of these trajectories.


Participants completed a survey to examine the impact of caring for, or living with, a cancer survivor at 6, 12, and 24 months post-survivor diagnosis. Anxiety and depression were measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (N anxiety = 510; N depression = 511).


Anxiety trajectories included: no anxiety (15.1% scored <3; 37.8% scored 3–5); chronic, borderline anxiety (33.2%); and chronic, clinical anxiety (13.9%). The depression trajectories were: no depression (38.9% scored <2; 31.5% scored around 3); a sustained score of 7 (25.5%); and chronic, clinical depression (4.1%). Variables associated with the trajectories included most of the psychosocial variables.


Findings highlight that most caregivers maintained their baseline level of distress, which is particularly concerning for participants reporting chronic anxiety or depression.

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The Partners and Caregivers Study was supported by the Cancer Council NSW and received infrastructure support from the Honda Foundation and Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI). Also, Dr. Lambert is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Research Fellowship (APP1012869) and Prof. Girgis by a Cancer Institute New South Wales Grant. Our sincere thanks go to the caregivers who provided the survey data. We are also grateful to Sandra Dowley, Fiona Stacey, Raelene Monahan, and Alexander Cameron for their support of the Partners and Caregivers Study.

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The authors have no conflict of interest to disclose

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Correspondence to Sylvie D. Lambert Ph.D..

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Lambert, S.D., Jones, B.L., Girgis, A. et al. Distressed Partners and Caregivers Do Not Recover Easily: Adjustment Trajectories Among Partners and Caregivers of Cancer Survivors. ann. behav. med. 44, 225–235 (2012).

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  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Longitudinal study
  • Caregivers
  • Trajectories
  • Psychological adjustment