Send to

Choose Destination
Psychol Med. 2004 Aug;34(6):1065-82.

Onset, timing and risk for depression and anxiety in family caregivers to heart transplant recipients.

Author information

Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.



Family members adopt key caregiving roles in the maintenance of transplant recipients' health. While the bulk of the caregiving literature suggests that rates of psychiatric disorder should be high in these caregivers, the potential benefits of transplantation may instead lead to less distress than in other caregiving situations. We examined prevalence and risk factors for depressive and anxiety-related disorders in caregivers throughout 3 years after their family member's heart transplant.


A total of 190 caregivers (97% of eligible respondents) were enrolled. They received psychiatric and psychosocial evaluations at 2, 7, 12 and 36 months post-transplant. Survival analysis determined cumulative rates of psychiatric disorders and the impact of potential risk factors.


Rates of depressive and anxiety-related disorders met or exceeded other caregiver populations' rates. By 3 years post-transplant, cumulative onset rates were: Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), 31.6%, Adjustment disorders, 35.4% (29.4 % with anxious mood); Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder related to the transplant (PTSD-T), 22.5%, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, 7.3%, and any assessed disorder, 56.3%. PTSD-T occurred primarily during the first year post-transplant. Other disorders' rates increased over the entire study period. Risk for disorder was elevated by positive lifetime history of psychiatric disorder, greater post-transplant caregiving responsibilities, and a poorer relationship with the patient. Risk for MDD was further increased by caregiver unemployment, and risk for anxiety disorders was further increased by younger age, low sense of personal mastery, and high use of avoidance coping strategies.


Transplantation is associated with costs and benefits for not only patients but family caregivers. Caregivers' risk for psychiatric illness should be considered when developing interventions to promote families' long-term adjustment to the transplant process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center