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Br J Gen Pract. Sep 1996; 46(410): 507–512.
PMCID: PMC1239744

The effects of caring for a spouse with Parkinson's disease on social, psychological and physical well-being.


BACKGROUND: Several previous studies have examined the health of carers, but they have usually focused on elderly subjects and have often not had representative control samples. AIM: To determine whether caring for a partner with Parkinson's disease is associated with a worsening social, psychological and physical well-being than people with partners who do not suffer with Parkinson's disease. METHOD: One hundred and fifty-four carer spouses of subjects with Parkinson's disease, and 124 non-carer spouses of randomly selected population controls recruited from a national case-control study of early-onset Parkinson's disease in the Republic of Ireland, between 1992-1994, were studied. Outcome was measured along three dimensions: social functioning, assessed by the frequency of social contacts, outings and holidays; psychological well-being, measured by the General Health Questionnaire; and physical health, measured by the career's use of medical services, medications and episodes of chronic illness. RESULTS: Carer spouses were less likely to get out of the house once a week at least (odds ratio 1.79, 95% confidence intervals 1.00-3.20) or to have had a holiday in the last year (odds ratio 1.71, 95% confidence intervals 1.01-2.90). Contact with friends and neighbours decreased with increasing care provision. For spouses providing a lot of care, there was an almost fivefold increase in psychiatric morbidity (odds ratio 4.86, 95% confidence intervals 1.5-15.9) after adjusting for other variables. Most of the medical outcomes were less favourable among carers, but only the use of tranquilizers (odds ratio 3.73, 95% confidence intervals 1.18-11.8) and episodes of chronic illness (odds ratio 2.96, 95% confidence intervals 1.27-6.94) were significant. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, career spouses have slightly worse social, psychological and physical profiles. For social outcomes, increasing care provision is associated with fewer contacts, outings and holidays. For psychological and physical measures, carers providing a lot of care experience worse health. These results have implications for targeting appropriate interventions.

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