Transitions in spousal caregiving

Lynda C. Burton, Bozena Zdaniuk, Richard Schulz, Sharon Jackson, Calvin Hirsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study describes transitions over 5 years among community-dwelling elderly spouses into and within caregiving roles and associated health outcomes. Design and Methods: Participants in the Caregiver Health Effects Study (n = 818) were interviewed four times over 5 years with changes in their caregiving status described. Analyses of the effect on health outcomes of transitions were performed on those for whom four observations were available (n = 428). Results: Only half (49.5%) of noncaregivers at baseline remained noncaregivers at 5-year follow-up. The remainder experienced one or more transitions, including moving into the caregiving role, their own or their spouse's death, or placement of their spouse in a long-term care facility. The trajectory of health outcomes associated with caregiving was generally downward. Those who transitioned to heavy caregiving had more symptoms of depression, and poorer self-reported health and health behaviors. Implications: Transitions into and within the caregiving role should be monitored for adverse health effects on the caregiver, with interventions tailored to the individual's location in the caregiving trajectory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-241
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Health risk behaviors
  • Self-mastery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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