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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • oncology;
  • oesophageal;
  • carers;
  • Ireland

Abstract

Objective: To investigate strain and mental health among family caregivers of oesophageal cancer patients and possible factors associated with caregiver mental health and strain.

Methods: Patients with oesophageal adenocarcinoma in Ireland were recruited into the FINBAR study (the main aim of which was to investigate factors influencing the Barrett's adenocarcinoma relationship). Carers completed the 13-item Caregiver Strain Index and the General Health Questionnaire-30 (GHQ) in the context of a brief interview with trained research staff that was undertaken separately from the interview with each cancer patient.

Results: Two hundred and twenty-seven patients participated in the FINBAR study. A total of 39 patients did not have a family carer or the carer could not be identified. Fifty percent (94/188) of carers completed the questionnaires. Mean (SD) scores for strain (6.65, SD=3.63) and mental health status (10.21, SD=7.30) were high and 71% of carers scored >5 on the GHQ indicating psychological distress. There was a statistically significant positive relationship between level of strain experienced by caregivers and the severity of their mental health status and whether or not carers scored >5 on the GHQ. Relatives were 1.70 (95% CI 1.34–2.15) times more likely to be defined as high scorers with each unit increase in the CSI score.

Conclusions: A significant proportion of caregivers experienced high levels of strain and psychological distress. There is a need to provide appropriate support and services targeted specifically at reducing the considerable strain of caring for patients with oesophageal cancer, particularly for carers of patients from lower socioeconomic groups. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.