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Keywords:

  • bipolar disorder;
  • caregiver burden;
  • correlates;
  • prevalence

Objectives:  Caring for a relative with schizophrenia or dementia is associated with reports of high caregiver burden, symptoms of depression, poor physical health, negligence of the caregiver's own health needs, elevated health service use, low use of social supports, and financial strain. This study presents the design and preliminary data on the costs and consequences of caring for a relative or friend with bipolar disorder from the Family Experience Study, a longitudinal study of the primary caregivers to 500 patients enrolled in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder.

Methods:  Subjects were primary caregivers of 500 patients with bipolar disorder diagnosed by the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview and the Affective Disorder Evaluation. Caregivers were evaluated within 1 month after patients entered Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program using measures of burden, coping, health/mental health, and use of resources and costs.

Results:  Eighty-nine percent, 52%, and 61% of caregivers, respectively, experienced moderate or higher burden in relation to patient problem behaviors, role dysfunction, or disruption of household routine. High burden caregivers reported more physical health problems, depressive symptoms, health risk behavior and health service use, and less social support than less burden caregivers. They also provided more financial support to their bipolar relative.

Conclusions:  Burdens experienced by family caregivers of people with bipolar disorder are associated with problems in health, mental health, and cost. Psychosocial interventions targeting the strains of caregiving for a patient with bipolar disorder are needed.