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GeroPsych (Bern). 2010 Dec 1;23(4):207-213.

The Effects of Suffering in Chronically Ill Older Adults on the Health and Well-Being of Family Members Involved in Their Care: The Role of Emotion-Related Processes.

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Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, USA.


A large literature shows that caregivers of chronically ill older adults have a higher risk for impaired health and decreased longevity. In this paper we review research that addresses pathways through which family members experience negative health consequences from exposure to a partner's suffering. We first provide a conceptualization of suffering and describe how it can be measured, then review empirical evidence that exposure to suffering uniquely influences caregivers' health, and discuss individual differences in caregivers' emotional reactions to partners' suffering using three emotion theories (Gross' process model of emotion regulation, attachment theory, and a functionalist perspective on emotion). Finally, we discuss implications of the effects of suffering for the health and well-being of family caregivers.

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