The Role of Social Isolation on Mediating Depression and Anxiety among Primary Family Caregivers of Older Adults: A Two-Wave Mediation Analysis

Jiaming Liang, Maria P. Aranda, Yuri Jang, Kathleen Wilber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Primary family caregivers of older people with chronic care conditions are highly vulnerable to social isolation and psychological strains such as depression and anxiety due to their demanding responsibilities. This study examines how social isolation mediates the relationship between caregiving stress and mental health symptoms of primary family caregivers. Methods: The analytic sample included 881 primary caregivers of older adults from the 2015 and 2017 National Study of Caregiving (NSOC). Social isolation was measured using a composite structure that includes objective social disconnectedness and subjective loneliness. Two-wave mediation models were estimated to examine longitudinally if social isolation mediated the relationship between caregiving stress (subjective & objective stress) and mental health symptoms (depression & anxiety) of primary caregivers. Results: The study findings indicate that both subjective (β = 0.32, p < 0.001) and objective stress (β = 0.21, p = 0.003) have direct effects on depression among primary caregivers. Social isolation was found to only mediate the relationship between objective stress and depression (β = 0.18, p < 0.001). In contrast, no significant direct and indirect pathway was found in the anxiety model. Conclusions: The study demonstrates the internal mechanism where objective strains of caregiving make family caregivers socially isolated, which in turn leads to increased symptoms of depression. Future interventions and practices aimed at improving the psychological well-being of family caregivers should prioritize strategies aimed at increasing social engagement, particularly for those with heavy caregiver burdens.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Caregiving stress
  • Depression
  • Family caregivers
  • Social isolation

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