Bereavement After Informal Caregiving: Assessing Mental Health Burden Using Linked Population Data

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Objectives. We compared the mental health risk to unpaid caregivers bereaved of a care recipient with the risk to persons otherwise bereaved and to nonbereaved caregivers.

Methods. We linked prescription records for antidepressant and anxiolytic drugs to characteristics and life-event data of members of the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (n = 317 264). Using a case-control design, we fitted logistic regression models, stratified by age, to model relative likelihood of mental health problems, using the proxy measures of mental health–related prescription.

Results. Both caregivers and bereaved individuals were estimated to be at between 20% and 50% greater risk for mental health problems than noncaregivers in similar circumstances (for bereaved working-age caregivers, odds ratio = 1.41; 95% confidence interval = 1.27, 1.56). For older people, there was no evidence of additional risk to bereaved caregivers, though there was for working-age people. Older people appeared to recover more quickly from caregiver bereavement.

Conclusions. Caregivers were at risk for mental ill health while providing care and after the death of the care recipient. Targeted caregiver support needs to extend beyond the life of the care recipient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1630-1637
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


  • Caregivers
  • Bereavement
  • Mental Health
  • Data linkage
  • NILS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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