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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 1997 Jul;12(7):737-44.

Psychological distress among informal supporters of frail older people at home and in institutions. The Resource Implications Study Group of the MRC Cognitive Function and Ageing Study.

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Centre for Health Services Research University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.



Investigate presence of psychiatric morbidity in informal carers using 30-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) and examine which factors best predict psychiatric morbidity.


Two-year longitudinal, panel survey of informal supporters of frail elderly subjects, using semi-structured interview schedules. Subjects were those defined as frail after screening stratified random sample of people aged 65 or over.


Informal supporters of frail elderly subjects residing in private households or residential or nursing homes in four UK districts.


623 informal supporters of subjects living at home, 129 regular visitors of those in long-term care.


30-item GHQ (cross-sectional analysis).


Stepwise multiple regression indicated main predictors of high GHQ scores in key supporters were: subjects had at least three problems of behaviour (b = 1.56, 95% CI 1.25-1.94); supporters had to alter working hours (b = 1.70, 95% CI 1.15-2.51); supporters were female (b =1.26, 95% CI 1.06-1.50). The following variables predicted low GHQ scores: supporters able to leave subject all day (b = 0.71, 95% CI 0.64-0.80); subjects never wandered (b = 0.78, 95% CI 0.62-0.99); supporters were 'other relatives' or friends of subject (b = 0.74, 95% CI 0.59-0.91). For visitors, spouses were most likely to have high GHQ scores (b = 2.46, 95% CI 1.32-4.57).


Results suggest the need for greater collaboration between formal and informal care. Little work has been carried out to ascertain which interventions are most effective in alleviating carer stress: a series of randomized controlled trials to determine long-term effectiveness of various interventions for different groups of carers is required.

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