Aims. The aim of this study was to examine the level of perceived burden of the Chinese families caring for a relative with schizophrenia and to test its associations with their demographic characteristics, social and family factors and health condition.
Background. Despite the increased demands on family members to provide care for patients with schizophrenia in community care, little is known about the level of family burden among these family caregivers and its relationship with their demographic, social and cultural backgrounds.
Methods. This was a cross-sectional descriptive study. A total of 203 family caregivers were recruited from three regional psychiatric outpatient clinics in Hong Kong. They were asked to complete a set of well-validated questionnaires, consisting of the Chinese version of four instruments – Family Burden Interview Schedule, Family Assessment Device, Six-item Social Support Questionnaire and MOS 36-Item Short Form Health Survey and a socio-demographic data sheet. Statistical analyses were conducted to test the differences in mean burden scores between subgroups, the inter-relationships among the mean scores of the scales and socio-demographic variables and the predictors of family burden.
Results. The families who perceived a higher level of caregiver burden were those who lived in a family with poorer functioning, worse health status and less satisfaction of social support. The caregivers’ burden score was positively correlated with their age; conversely, it was negatively correlated with their monthly household income and number of family members living with patient. Social support was the best predictor of caregiver burden.
Conclusion. These findings increase our understanding about the socio-demographic and cultural variables influencing the well being of family caregivers of a relative with schizophrenia. Helping families to maintain and enhance a supportive social network may represent a useful means to reduce family burden in schizophrenia.
Relevance to clinical practice. This understanding helps health professionals and researchers to identify different sources and domains of burden from a Chinese cultural perspective and take into account of these factors when planning interventions for family caregivers.