Psychophysiological mediators of caregiver stress and differential cognitive decline

Peter P. Vitaliano, Joyce Yi, Paul E M Phillips, Diana Echeverria, Heather M Young, Ilene C. Siegler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


The authors examined relationships between chronic stress and cognitive decline and whether such relationships were mediated by psychophysiological factors. Ninety-six caregivers of spouses with Alzheimer's disease (AD) were compared with 95 similar noncaregiver spouses. All were free of diabetes. Although the groups started similarly, over 2 years caregivers declined by a small but significant amount (1 raw score point and 4 percentile points, each p < .05) on Shipley Vocabulary. In contrast, noncaregivers did not change. Higher hostile attribution (β = -.09;p < .05) and metabolic risk (β = -.10; p < .05) in caregivers mediated the cognitive decline. This is the first study of cognitive decline and mediators in caregivers. This work has implications for caregiver and care-recipient health and for research on cognition, psychophysiology, diabetes, and AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)402-411
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology and Aging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Caregivers
  • Cognition
  • Hostility
  • Metabolic
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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