Purpose: Caregivers of cancer patients experience distress that can manifest as caregiving burden, burnout, depression, and fatigue. Caregiving distress affects physical health in various ways such as causing the dysregulation of inflammatory functions. We examined the relationships between psychological distress experienced by and inflammatory cytokine levels of family caregivers of cancer patients. Methods: A descriptive, cross-sectional study involving 93 family caregivers of cancer patients was conducted. Self-report questionnaires were used to measure the distress variables, which included the caregiving burden, burnout, depression, and fatigue, and peripheral blood samples were collected to measure the IL-6, IL-10, and TNF-α levels. Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to evaluate the impact of caregivers’ distress on their inflammatory cytokine levels. Results: Inflammatory cytokine levels were negatively correlated with caregiving distress. High fatigue levels (B = − 0.047, p = 0.026) and additional days of care provided per week (B = − 0.048, p = 0.009) was associated with low IL-6 levels. High depression levels (B = − 0.250, p = 0.007), high fatigue levels (B = − 0.054, p = 0.027), and more days of care provided per week (B = − 0.048, p = 0.033) were associated with low TNF-α levels. The age of the caregiver (B = − 0.011, p = 0.020) and days of care provided per week (B = − 0.138, p = 0.031) were associated factors for IL-10 levels. Conclusion: The inflammatory responses were associated with the distress in family caregiving for cancer patients. Thus, interventions are needed to support caregivers and manage their caregiving distress.
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© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.
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