Quality of Life in Caregivers of a Family Member with Serious Mental Illness

Authors: Anli Leng1, Caifen Xu2, Stephen Nicholas3, Jennifer Nicholas4, Jian Wang1

1 School of Public Health, Shandong University, 44 Wenhuaxi Road, Jinan, Shandong, China,250012

2 The Affiliated Hospital of North China University of Science & Technology Tangshan, Hebei, China,063000

3 School of  Economics and School of Management, Tianjin Normal University, West Bin Shui Avenue, Tianjin, 300074;Research Institute of International Strategies, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Baiyun Avenue North, Guangzhou, 510420;School of International Business, Beijing Foreign Studies University, 19 North Xisanhuan Avenue, Haidian, Beijing, 100089;Newcastle Business School, University of Newcastle, University Drive, Newcastle, NSW, 2308, Australia

4 Black Dog Institute, Hospital Road, Randwick, NSW 2031.

Introduction 

In China, it is estimated that there are 16 million patients with mental illness. Studies have found that family caregivers take on the most prominent role in taking care of people with mental illness. However, family caregivers suffer from care burden in taking care of family member with mental illness. By now, limited research has been undertaken regarding quality of life (QoL) of family caregivers with a family member with mental illness in Shandong Province.

Objective  

This study aims to investigate the QoL among family caregivers for people with mental illness and to identify the influencing factors of the QoL.

Methods

181 family caregivers in mental health centre in Shandong were recruited and independently interviewed using the questionnaire. Multiple stepwise regression analysis was used to analysis the factors affecting the QoL.

Results

This study found that family caregivers in Shandong perceived poor QoL. Compared with the data of the general population in China, this study found that family caregivers in Shandong perceived poorer QoL (545.32<595.32), especially in the aspect of role-physical (61.33<77.50), role-emotional (57.64<67.86) and bodily pain (74.87<82.22).The score of QoL of family caregivers was low, especially in the aspect of role-physical, role-emotional and mental health. We also found that family caregivers received low social support, especially in objective support and utilisation of social support. Multiple stepwise regression analysis indicated that patient’s illness state, care time, financial burden and objective support significantly predicted caregivers’ QOL in the domain of physical health. Patient’s illness state, patient’s marital status, family monthly income, caregiver’s knowledge about the illness, caregivers coordinating caring, life and work, subjective support received and utility of support significantly predicted caregivers’ QoL in the domain of mental health.

Conclusions

Social support is a protective factor in promoting caregivers’ QoL. Caregivers should themselves be supported to request assistance from family members and friends in providing care, especially when caregivers are unemployed or have been long-time carers. Mental health education campaigns need to focus on knowledge about the illness those patients suffered, targeting long-time caregivers. Helping families to maintain and enhance a supportive social network may provide a useful means to improve caregivers’ QoL.