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Perceived social support may be a good predictor of the burden perceived by caregivers

del-Pino-Casado R, Frías-Osuna A, Palomino-Moral PA, et al.  Social support and subjective burden in caregivers of adults and older adults: A meta-analysis  PloS one. 2018; 13(1): e0189874.

Review question

•    What is the relationship between social support and caregiver burden among caregivers of older adults?


      Caring for a relative is a stressful experience that can have negative consequences on the health and well-being of caregivers. Social support, defined as care and assistance offered by one’s social network, has traditionally been thought of as an effective measure to alleviate caregiver stress. Previous studies have analyzed this relationship, indicating that social support reduces caregiver stress by: 1) assuring caregivers that support is available in times of stress; and 2) providing caregivers with adequate support when required. Although it is commonly accepted that access to social support will decrease caregiver stress, recent studies have suggested that the relationship may not be quite so clear.

      This systematic review examined research evidence about the effects of social support (both perceived and received) on the burden of caregivers of adults or older adults.

How the review was done

      A detailed search of a number of electronic databases was conducted for studies published from the date of establishment of the databases to September 2017. Studies that focused on social support, informal support, social network, perceived support, received support, burden, strain, role overload, caregiver and career were included in the review.

      A total of 5,710 studies were identified in the searches, and 56 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

      The authors received no specific funding for this work.

What the researchers found

      This systematic review reveals a small association between receiving social support and a decrease in burden perceived by caregivers, and a moderate association between having the impression of receiving social support and a decrease in burden perceived by caregivers. This means that caregivers who received, or felt like they received, greater levels of social support reported experiencing less burden than they otherwise would have. These findings are consistent with previous studies on other populations.


      In summary, the review identified three main conclusions regarding the relationship between social support and caregiver burden: 1) perceived social support has a greater effect on caregiver burden than received social support; 2) perceived social support may be a good predictor of the burden of caregivers; and 3) the perception of social support as adequate may be related to appraising a situation as less stressful.

      Findings from this review support the development of interventions to promote social support in caregivers to prevent or alleviate caregiver burden.


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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