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Burden and social support in family members of relatives with problematic substance use or dementia
08 August 2017 (online)
Living together with a chronically ill family member often puts enormous strain on the relatives. Higher rates of psychological and physiological impairment within family members of problematic substance users as well as within caregivers of people with dementia have been reported repeatedly. However, to date there is no evidence whether relatives of substance users are affected more strongly due to specific demanding characteristics of problematic substance use (e.g. stigmatizing of addiction, feelings of guilt) than those with family members with non-stigmatized illnesses e.g. caregivers of people with dementia.
N = 221 relatives of problematic substance user and N = 322 caregivers of people with dementia were compared according to burden and professional and private social support. Depression, anxiety, physiological symptoms, quality of life and satisfaction with social support were assessed via questionnaires in both groups. Mean values were compared by multivariate ANOVAs. The mediating role of satisfaction with social support was explored by regression analyses.
Compared to caregivers of people with dementia, relatives of problematic substance users showed higher rates of depression (p = 0.005), anxiety (p = 0.038), stomach discomfort (p < 0.001), fatigue (p < 0.001), and a lower quality of life (p < 0.001). Furthermore, they were less satisfied with the perceived professional (p < 0.001) and private social support (p < 0.001), which both mediated the group-impairment relation (all p = 0.029).
Family members of problematic substance might be affected more intensely by the illness of their relatives due to the stigmatization of problematic substance use per se as well as the ascribed familial responsibility (e.g. co-addiction). This could foster refraining from searching social support as well as receiving such.