Health profiles of spouse caregivers: The role of active coping and the risk for developing prolonged grief symptoms

Lyndsey M. Miller, Rebecca L. Utz, Katherine Supiano, Dale Lund, Michael S. Caserta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Study aims: 1) To characterize distinct profiles of cancer caregivers’ physical and mental health during the end-of-life caregiving period; 2) to identify the background and antecedent factors associated with the distinct profiles of caregivers; 3) to determine the relevance of caregiver profiles to the risk for developing prolonged grief symptoms. Design & methods: This study was a secondary analysis of spouses/partners (n = 198) who participated in the Cancer Caregiver Study. Latent profile mixture modeling was used to characterize caregiver health profiles from data collected prior to their spouse's death. Regression analyses were used to determine the impact of caregiver health profiles on the risk of developing prolonged grief symptoms (PG-13 scale). Results: Two health profiles were identified, one of which was comprised of a minority of caregivers (n = 49; 25%) who exhibited higher anxiety and depressive symptoms, greater health impact from caregiving, more self-reported health problems, and greater difficulty meeting physical demands of daily activities. Caregivers who were observed in this poorer health profile had significantly lower levels of active coping (p < 0.001) in adjusted models. Additionally, according to subsequent bereavement data, caregivers' preloss health profile was a significant predictor of developing prolonged grief symptoms (p = 0.018), controlling for caregivers’ age (p = 0.040) and amount of active coping (p = 0.049), and there was a mediating effect of caregiver health on the relationship between active coping and prolonged grief symptoms. Conclusions: Caregiving and bereavement should not be considered separately; caregivers adapt to bereavement with the resources and coping attained throughout the life course, culminating in the experience of providing end-of-life care. Interventions aimed at supporting caregivers and bereaved persons should focus on maintaining physical and mental health during stressful life transitions, and especially during the period in which they are providing care to a spouse at end-of-life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113455
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Anxiety
  • Bereavement
  • Class mixture modeling
  • Depression
  • Family caregiving
  • Health
  • Latent
  • Prolonged grief
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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