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Psychol Aging. 2010 Mar;25(1):108-17. doi: 10.1037/a0018064.

Does a helping hand mean a heavy heart? Helping behavior and well-being among spouse caregivers.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Being a caregiver for an ill or disabled loved one is widely recognized as a threat to the caregiver's quality of life. Nonetheless, research indicates that helping behavior, broadly construed, promotes well-being. Could helping behavior in a caregiving context promote well-being as well? In the present study, we used ecological momentary assessment to measure active helping behavior and both positive and negative affect in 73 spouse caregivers. Results indicate that when controlling for care recipient illness status and functional impairment and caregiver "on call" caregiving time, active helping predicted greater caregiver positive affect--especially for individuals who perceived themselves as interdependent with their spouse. In addition, although both helping and on-call time predicted greater negative affect for caregivers who perceived low interdependence, helping was unrelated to negative affect among caregivers perceiving high interdependence. Helping valued loved ones may promote caregivers' well-being.

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