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Repetitive Negative Thinking, Depressive Symptoms, and Cortisol in Cancer Caregivers and Noncaregivers

Patrick Pössel
Amanda M. Mitchell
Brooks Harbison
G. Rafael Fernandez-Botran
ONF 2019, 46(6), E202-E210 DOI: 10.1188/19.ONF.E202-E210

Objectives: To examine the effect of informal cancer caregiving and repetitive negative thinking (RNT) on depressive symptoms and salivary cortisol levels.

Sample & Setting: The sample was recruited from a hospital bone marrow unit and caregiver support organizations. It included 60 informal cancer caregivers (52% partners) of individuals with cancer who provided care for a median of 27.5 hours per week for 12 months, and 46 noncaregiver participants.

Methods & Variables: In this cross-sectional study, participants completed questionnaires assessing RNT and depressive symptoms and provided saliva samples to measure cortisol levels.

Results: Cancer caregiving and RNT, but not the interaction, were associated with more depressive symptoms. RNT, but not cancer caregiving, was associated with salivary cortisol. A disordinal interaction effect suggests that cancer caregiving was associated with lower cortisol levels, and RNT in noncaregivers was associated with higher cortisol levels.

Implications for Nursing: Given that RNT is related to depressive symptoms and cortisol, connecting cancer caregivers who experience RNT to resources and the development and evaluation of brief nurse-led interventions to reduce RNT in informal cancer caregivers seems warranted.

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