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The Health Risks of Depression in Cancer Caregivers

August 28, 2017

When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it can be stressful and challenging for the entire family.

Family members not only have to deal with all the possibilities related to the diagnosis, but in many cases they also must act as caregivers.

Now a recent study indicates that caregivers who may already have depression are at greater risk for declines in physical health after a loved one’s cancer diagnosis.

In the study, published in the journal Cancer, researchers examined the physical health of caregivers two to eight years after their family member’s diagnosis. The average age of caregivers included in the study was around 53 years old.

Using self-reported data and a 12-item American Cancer Society survey that assessed physical health, researchers reviewed information about caregivers’ age, sex, income, education, employment status and relationship to the patient, the severity of the patient’s diagnosis, and factors such as caregiving stress and esteem, social support and symptoms of depression. They then assessed changes in these indicators over time.

Researchers found caregivers had slightly better health than the national average two years after their loved one’s diagnosis. However, eight years after the diagnosis, they had a small, but noticeable decline in physical health. Those who already dealt with depression before their family member’s diagnosis had even worse health declines later on.

The study’s findings indicate we need to provide even more support and services to caregivers and to identify early on those who may be at risk for depression so they can get timely treatment.

There are many local support groups and therapists all over the country who already do this work, but part of the solution may be ensuring caregivers know these resources are available to them. The Cancer Support Community at UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health offers resources for both patients and family members, including free counseling that helps the entire family adjust to the new diagnosis, cope with depression and deal with family and relationship challenges related to a cancer diagnosis.

Anyone who has ever cared for a loved one with cancer understands that the focus is often on getting their family member back to good health. That is the main priority, but in the process it’s critical for caregivers not to ignore their own health. During this critical time, a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer needs all the support he or she can get, so it’s just as important that caregivers prioritize their health for the often difficult road ahead. We can identify those who are at greater risk for depression or worse physical health with basic screening and questionnaires, and then connect both caregivers and patients to the mental health services they may need. 

Cancer is a battle unlike any other for many families, but while we try to address the disease’s physical effects, we also need to pay attention to the emotional and mental impact it has on patients and caregivers alike. Being more vigilant about this could benefit more patients and their families and increase support for this group as they deal with a challenging diagnosis. 

UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health’s Patient and Family Counseling Department employs state licensed and masters-level counselors and provides several resources for patients and families. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a counselor, please call 321.841.1869 or visit:

Are you interested in learning more about our patient and family counseling?

The Patient and Family Counseling Department provides educational programs, support groups, and counseling to assist our patients and families in their journey through illness. All of our counselors are state licensed and masters-prepared with many years experience in providing support and counseling to our patients and their families from diagnosis, through treatment and beyond.

Learn More Here

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Cardiac Stress Tests: Who Needs Them and When

May 05, 2015

5 Myths About Organ Donation

Jun 09, 2015

New Treatment Offers Hope for Patients with Peripheral Arterial Disease

Mar 26, 2015

A Steady Heart: One Man’s Journey from AFib to a Regular Heartbeat

Feb 23, 2015

Suffering from IBS? You Also Should Get Checked for Endometriosis

May 19, 2015

How to Transition to a Vegan Diet

Aug 21, 2015

Staying Healthy After Fatherhood

Aug 14, 2015

Walks on the Beach Painful? That May Be Plantar Fasciitis

May 21, 2015

5 ways to Reduce Stress in 10 minutes or Less

Apr 24, 2015

Why You May Not Need Surgery for Appendicitis

Jul 22, 2015

Valentine’s Got You Down? It Could Be Male Menopause

Feb 13, 2015

Preventing Kidney Stones: It’s All About Your Diet

Apr 27, 2015

Why Do Some People Need a Second Bariatric Surgery?

Sep 19, 2015

Have You Had Your Blood Sugar Checked Lately? Here’s Why You Should

Aug 27, 2015

Ladies: It’s Time to Stop Crossing Your Legs

Apr 23, 2015

New Trend in Healthcare: Shared Medical Appointments

Feb 06, 2015

10 Common Myths About Measles—and the Real Facts

Mar 05, 2015

Adam’s Story: “Space-Aged Machine” Helps Patient Overcome Heart Condition

Sep 05, 2014

Shedding Light on Pulmonary Hypertension and Depression—And What to Do About It

Nov 04, 2014

Why You Should Kick Energy Drinks to the Curb

Aug 22, 2014

8 Vasectomy Reversal Questions Answered

Oct 16, 2014

Surviving a severe spinal cord injury: How to live for a better outcome

Sep 24, 2013

Can drinking water help you lose weight? Here are some tips on how to get more water in your day

Aug 13, 2013

Are You at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

Oct 03, 2013

Emergency Contraception: What Every Parent of a Teenager Should Know

Nov 29, 2012

What is atrial fibrillation and how is it treated?

Apr 12, 2014

Common questions about melanoma

May 21, 2013

The Feeding Tube Diet: A Bad Idea for Weight Loss

Oct 07, 2014

Our expert debunks the most common myths about the flu shot

Dec 03, 2013

High Heels: Is Fashion Worth the Risk?

Aug 19, 2014

Planning "The Talk": The importance of establishing open communication with your teen

Jan 04, 2013

Ryan's Story: Wakeboarder defies the odds to get back on the water

Jun 24, 2014

Struggling to Have a Baby? It Could be Male Infertility

Sep 04, 2014

When should I take my teenage daughter to the gynecologist?

Dec 26, 2012

Why the Genetics of a Tumor Matter

Jul 15, 2014

Are you getting fooled by food labels? Learn what those percentages are telling you.

Nov 26, 2012

Hypothyroidism is commonly mismanaged, learn the facts

Nov 12, 2012

The Five Worst Foods to Pack in Your Kid’s School Lunch

Sep 16, 2014

Melanoma on the Rise—Why Tanning Beds Aren’t Safe at Any Age

Aug 12, 2014

What is a Calcium Score and Why Do You Need to Know It?

Aug 26, 2014

Feeling Stressed? You May be Stressing Your Heart Out Too

Aug 29, 2014

What causes absent or irregular periods? Dr. Greves explains possible diagnosis and treatment options

Nov 07, 2013

Travel Vaccinations 101: Things to Know Before you Go

May 23, 2013

What is preterm birth? Who is at risk, and how can it be prevented?

Nov 21, 2013

Little League Injuries on the Rise—What You Need to Know As a Parent

Jul 18, 2014

Two of the Most Prevalent Injuries Facing Gymnasts

Aug 02, 2012

Avoiding a colonoscopy? Here’s why you shouldn’t

Jun 10, 2014

What is trigeminal neuralgia? How is it treated?

Aug 27, 2013

Five myths about ovarian cysts

Jan 18, 2013

Concussions on the Rise in High School Football—How We Can Protect Our Kids

Aug 15, 2014

The growing role of robotic surgery in gynecology at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies

Apr 05, 2014

Is CrossFit Safe When You’re Pregnant?

Mar 06, 2014

Move Over Mediterranean Diet—The New Nordic Diet is Here

Oct 20, 2014

Letting the light in: An introduction to life with multiple sclerosis

Apr 23, 2013

Dr. Gupta answers: Can you discuss thyroid issues and the relationship to Type 2 diabetes?

Jun 27, 2013

What is a gynecologic oncologist?

May 27, 2014

Are you getting enough rest? The dangers of sleep deprivation

Mar 15, 2014

Is it possible to choose a vaginal birth after cesarean section?

Feb 26, 2014

Coping with Chemo Brain

Jul 08, 2014

Does Consuming Your Own Placenta After Childbirth Deliver the Benefits Some Celebrities Claim?

Jan 07, 2014

Dangerous Trend: HGH Use on the Rise Among High School Athletes

Oct 27, 2014

Running Five Minutes a Day Can Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease

Sep 12, 2014

Finding a second chance at life through surgical treatment for trigeminal neuralgia: Carol’s story

Oct 22, 2013

Eating Disorders Change How you Taste Food

Jul 29, 2016

How to Cope with Trauma

Jul 20, 2016

4 Things to Know about the New Food Labels

Jul 16, 2016

Google Rolls Out Clearer Symptom Search Features

Jul 02, 2016

Does Weighing Yourself Help?

Jun 28, 2016

How to Protect Your Eyes from the Sun’s Rays

Jul 07, 2016

5 Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

Jun 20, 2016

Do Adults Need Booster Shots?

Jun 23, 2016

What to Do If You Get Sick or Injured While Traveling Abroad

Jun 27, 2016

1 in 3 Americans Consume Sugary Drinks Every Day

Jun 02, 2016

A Day in the Life: Copa América Centenario 2016 Venue Medical Director

May 31, 2016

Stress Management May Reduce Risk of A Second Heart Attack

May 27, 2016

CDC: Low Treatment Rates for African Americans with HIV

Jun 29, 2016

Men Have Body Image Issues, Too

Jun 09, 2016

‘Obesity Genes’ Don’t Affect Weight Loss

Oct 28, 2016

Intimacy Challenges: Coping with Erectile Dysfunction

Oct 08, 2016

How Stress May Impact Fertility

Oct 18, 2016

Adjusting to Climate Changes While Traveling

Aug 02, 2016

August 30th: National Grief Awareness Day

Aug 30, 2016

New CDC Guidelines for Zika: What You Should Know

Aug 09, 2016

The Danger of Biggest Loser Diets

Aug 20, 2016

How to Reduce Your Risk of Getting the Zika Virus

Aug 16, 2016

When Doctors and Surrogates Disagree on Time Left

Aug 07, 2016

Loneliness May Be in your DNA

Nov 30, 2016

Sleep and Self-Care Can Reduce Stroke Risk

Dec 17, 2016

Do You Know What Healthy Food Is?

Dec 15, 2016

Why All Pregnant Women Should Get a Flu Shot

Sep 20, 2016

Americans Are Gaining Weight Every Decade

Sep 19, 2016

Becoming a Pet Therapy Team

Sep 15, 2016

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month: How You Can Help

Sep 30, 2016

A Better Way to Detect Sepsis

Sep 26, 2016

Is Routine Herpes Screening Necessary?

Sep 22, 2016

A Busy Schedule May Keep Your Mental Prowess

Sep 27, 2016

Even Internationally, Holidays Bring Weight Gain

Nov 22, 2016

7 Healthy Ways to Diffuse Stress

Oct 15, 2016

CDC: Antibiotics for Gonorrhea Losing Their Effectiveness

Nov 01, 2016

I’m an Adult, Can I Still Have Asthma?

Mar 24, 2016

New Study Highlights Truth of Old Saying, ‘You’re Only as Old as You Feel’

May 26, 2016

Obese Women Have Higher Risk of Asthma

May 17, 2016

Obese Women Who Take Birth Control Pills May Have Higher Stroke Risk

Apr 21, 2016

A Day in the Life of an Athletic Trainer for the Orlando Ballet

Mar 30, 2016

CDC Sets New Guidelines on Sex After Zika Exposure

Apr 02, 2016

What You Need to Know About End of Life Care and Advance Directives

Apr 05, 2016

Reducing The Sodium in Your Diet is Easier Than You Think

Aug 29, 2017

Why It’s Never Too Late to Change Your Diet

Aug 29, 2017

A Day in The Life of an Air Care EMT

Aug 29, 2017

How Heat Can Trigger Asthma Symptoms

Sep 06, 2017

Behavioral Counseling Can Help Healthy People Lower Their Heart Disease Risk, Too

Sep 14, 2017

Should I go to the ER or Urgent Care?

Sep 19, 2017

Researchers Discover Possible Vaccine to Treat Gonorrhea

Sep 22, 2017

Four Common Misconceptions About Vaccines

Sep 21, 2017

Melinda and Paxton’s Journey to Becoming a Pet Therapy Team

Sep 18, 2017

I Wake Up at Night to Urinate—Is That Normal?

Jan 10, 2015

5 Facts About the Dangers of E-Cigarettes

Oct 15, 2016

Exploring Options to Treat Advanced Shoulder Arthritis

Sep 25, 2017