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Open Access Research article

Family burden, family health and personal mental health

Edel Ennis* and Brendan P Bunting

Author Affiliations

School of Psychology, University of Ulster, Northland Rd., L’Derry, Northern Ireland BT48 7JL, UK

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:255  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-255

Published: 21 March 2013



The economic and moral implications of family burden are well recognised. What is less understood is whether or how family health and family burden relate to personal mental health. This study examines family health and perceived family burden as predictors of personal mental health, taking personal and sociodemographic factors into consideration.


Data used was from the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R), namely the random 30% of participants (N = 3192) to whom the family burden interview was administered. Measures of family burden and mental health were considered for analysis.


Binary logistic regressions were used as means of analyses. Perception of family burden was associated with an increased vulnerability to personal mental health problems, as was the presence of mental health difficulties within the family health profile. Which member of the family (kinship) was ill bore no relation to prediction of personal mental health. Personal and socio-demographic factors of sex, age, marital status, education and household income were all predictive of increased vulnerability to mental health problems over the last 12 months.


Certain elements of family health profile and its perceived burden on the individuals themselves appears related to risk of personal incidence of mental health problems within the individuals themselves. For moral and economic reasons, further research to understand the dynamics of these relationships is essential to aid developing initiatives to protect and support the mental health and wellbeing of relatives of ill individuals.

Mental health; Family burden