To determine the role of flexible goal adjustment in the impact of informal caregiving on depressive symptoms, using a longitudinal approach.
Data were gathered from the German Ageing Survey. This is a population-based longitudinal study among community-dwelling individuals aged 40 and above in Germany. Data were derived from the second (2002), third (2008) and fourth (2011) wave, drawing on 10,994 observations. Flexible goal adjustment was assessed using a scale by Brandstädter and Renner. Informal caregiving was measured by asking the individuals whether they provide informal care. Depressive symptoms were quantified by using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale.
Adjusting for several potential confounders, fixed effects regressions showed that the onset of informal caregiving markedly increased depressive symptoms. Furthermore, regressions revealed that this effect was significantly moderated by flexible goal adjustment.
Our results highlight the importance of informal caregiving for depressive symptoms. Furthermore, the importance of flexible goal adjustment in the relation between informal caregiving and depressive symptoms should be emphasized. Efforts to increase flexible goal adjustment might be beneficial in reducing depressive symptoms among informal caregivers.