Regular Research Article| Volume 22, ISSUE 12, P1592-1602, December 2014

Daily Stressors and Adult Day Service Use by Family Caregivers: Effects on Depressive Symptoms, Positive Mood, and Dehydroepiandrosterone-Sulfate

Published:February 03, 2014DOI:


      This study examines effects of daily use of adult day service (ADS) programs by caregivers of individuals with dementia (IWD) on a salivary biomarker of stress reactivity, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S), and whether these effects on DHEA-S are associated with daily variability in positive mood and depressive symptoms.


      We used a daily diary design of 8 consecutive days with alternation of intervention (ADS) and nonintervention days to evaluate within- and between-person effects of the intervention. Family caregivers (N = 151) of IWD who were using ADS were interviewed daily by telephone at home. Saliva samples were collected from caregivers five times a day for 8 consecutive days and were assayed for DHEA-S. Daily telephone interviews assessed daily stressors and mood.


      DHEA-S levels were significantly higher on days after ADS use. Daily DHEA-S levels covaried significantly with daily positive mood but not with depressive symptoms.


      These results demonstrate an association of ADS use by family caregivers and higher DHEA-S levels on the next day. Prior research has found that higher DHEA-S levels are protective against the physiologic damaging effects of stressor exposure and may reduce risks of illness. Regular use of ADS may help reduce depletion of DHEA-S and allow the body to mount a protective and restorative response to the physiologic demands of caregiving. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine DHEA-S levels across the day in connection with an intervention that affected daily exposure to stressors.

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