K K Bakof et al, 2021. Stress and its contribution to the development of depression symptoms are reduced in caregivers of elderly with higher educational level, Stress, published online.

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Caregivers of elderly people with neurodegenerative diseases are highly vulnerable to stressful situations and mood disorders due to their work conditions. Stress has been associated with an increased risk of developing depression, and studies have supported that caffeine consumption can act as an independent protective factor for disorder. This study investigated indexes of stress and depression symptoms in caregivers of the elderly with neurodegenerative diseases, their caffeine intake and the association between stress and depressive symptoms with the salivary biomarkers cortisol, nitric oxide and DNA damage.

participants (n = 81) were recruited from the community between July 2018 and April 2019. Stress was assessed using Lipp’s Inventory of Stress Symptoms, and depressive symptoms were measured using the Hamilton Depressive Rating Scale. Participants provided a 72-hour recall of their diet to measure caffeine intake. Saliva samples were used to measure cortisol and nitric oxide. DNA damage was measured through micronuclei frequency after swabbing on the buccal mucosa.

the majority of caregivers displayed stress and depressive symptoms. Stress was associated with educational level, tobacco use and total DNA damage.

the indexes found in this population were not associated with caffeine intake or other salivary biomarkers, indicating that only some salivary molecules could be used as biomarkers for stress-related disorders.

caregivers of the elderly are exposed to stressful situations daily, however, we observed that educational level can reduce the psychological symptoms of stress and thus reduce the negative impact on quality of life.


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