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Poor physical and mental health predicts prolonged grief disorder: A prospective, population-based cohort study on caregivers of patients at the end of life

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Background: The health of caregivers can be affected during end-of-life caregiving. Previous cross-sectional studies have indicated an association between poor health status and prolonged grief disorder, but prospective studies are lacking. Aim: To describe physical and mental health status in caregivers of patients at the end of life, and to investigate whether caregivers’ health status during caregiving predict prolonged grief disorder. Design: A population-based prospective survey was conducted. Health status was measured in caregivers during caregiving (SF-36), and prolonged grief disorder was assessed 6 months after bereavement (Prolonged Grief-13). We calculated mean scores of health status and explored the association with prolonged grief disorder using logistic regression adjusted for age, gender and education. Setting/participants: The health in caregivers of patients granted drug reimbursement due to terminal illness in Denmark in 2012 was assessed during caregiving and 6 months after bereavement (n = 2125). Results: The SF-36 subscale ‘role-physical’ concerning role limitations due to physical health, the ‘mental health’ component score, and all ‘mental health’ subscales showed significantly worse health in the participants than in the general population. Both poor physical health (adjusted OR: 1.05 (95% CI: 1.04–1.07)) and poor mental health (adjusted OR: 1.09 (95% CI: 1.07–1.11)) predicted prolonged grief disorder. Conclusion: Caregivers scored lower on one physical subscale and all mental health measures than the general population. Prolonged grief disorder was predicted by poor physical and mental health status before bereavement. Future research is needed on the use of health status in systematic assessment to identify caregivers in need of support.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPalliative Medicine
Pages (from-to)1416-1424
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

    Research areas

  • bereavement, Caregivers, grief, health status, mental health, palliative care, surveys and questionnaires

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