Does duration of spousal caregiving affect risk of depression onset? Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study

Benjamin D. Capistrant, Lisa F. Berkman, M. Maria Glymour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Objectives: To assess the association of current and long-term spousal caregiving with risk of depression in a nationally (U.S.) representative sample of older adults. Methods: We studied married and depression-free Health and Retirement Study respondents aged 50 years and older (n = 9,420) at baseline from 2000 to 2010. Current (≥14 hours per week of help with instrumental/activities of daily living for a spouse in the most recent biennial survey) and long-term caregiving (care at two consecutive surveys) were used to predict onset of elevated depressive symptoms (≥3 on a modified Centers for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale) with discrete-time hazards models and time-updated exposure and covariate information. Results: Current caregiving was associated with significant elevations in risk of depression onset (hazard ratio: 1.64; Wald χ2, 1 df: 28.34; p <0.0001). Effect estimates for long-term caregiving were similar (hazard ratio: 1.52, Wald χ2, 1 df: 3.63; p = 0.06). Conclusions: Current spousal caregiving significantly predicted onset of depression; the association was not exacerbated by longer duration of caregiving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)766-770
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the American Heart Association grants 09PRE2080078 (to BDC) and 10SDG2640243 (to MMG) and from National Institutes of Health grants T32HD007168 and R24HD050924 (to BDC). The HRS is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (grant NIA U01AG009740 ) and is conducted by the University of Michigan. The authors also acknowledge David Bloom, J. Robin Moon, and three anonymous reviewers for their comments on previous versions of this article.


  • Caregiving
  • Depression
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Older adults
  • Spouses


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