Impact of Relationship and Communication Variables on Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Advanced Cancer Caregivers

Amy K. Otto, Emily C. Soriano, Wendy C. Birmingham, Susan T. Vadaparampil, Richard E. Heyman, Lee Ellington, Maija Reblin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Cancer impacts both patients and their family caregivers. Evidence suggests that caregiving stress, including the strain of taking on a new role, can elevate the risk of numerous health conditions, including high blood pressure (BP). However, the caregiver's psychosocial experiences, including their interpersonal relationship with the patient, may buffer some of the negative physiological consequences of caregiving. Purpose: To examine the influence of psychosocial contextual variables on caregiver ambulatory BP. Methods: Participants were 81 spouse-caregivers of patients with advanced gastrointestinal or thoracic cancer. For an entire day at home with the patient, caregivers wore an ambulatory BP monitor that took readings at random intervals. Immediately after each BP reading, caregivers reported on physical circumstances (e.g., posture, activity) and psychosocial experiences since the last BP measurement, including affect, caregiver and patient disclosure, and role perceptions (i.e., feeling more like a spouse vs. caregiver). Multilevel modeling was used to examine concurrent and lagged effects of psychosocial variables on systolic and diastolic BP, controlling for momentary posture, activity, negative affect, and time. Results: Feeling more like a caregiver (vs. spouse) was associated with lower systolic BP at the same time point. Patient disclosure to the caregiver since the previous BP reading was associated with higher diastolic BP. No lagged effects were statistically significant. Conclusions: Caregivers' psychosocial experiences can have immediate physiological effects. Future research should examine possible cognitive and behavioral mechanisms of these effects, as well as longer-term effects of caregiver role perceptions and patient disclosure on caregiver psychological and physical health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-413
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


  • Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring
  • Cancer
  • Caregiver
  • Couples
  • Disclosure
  • Role

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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