The Role of Meaning Perception for Informal Caregivers’ Happiness

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Providing informal care for a close other is related to decreased well-being. However, it potentially also elicits meaningful experiences that may increase happiness directly or buffer against the negative impact of a caregiver’s burden. This study is the first to test the causal link between perceived meaning in informal caregiving and happiness of informal caregivers in a self-administered, 2-week online intervention. Adult informal caregivers (N = 375, 78.9% female) were randomly assigned to a meaning intervention, where they remembered a daily meaningful caregiving experience, a placebo group that objectively described caregiving tasks, or a control group without intervention. Happiness was measured before, directly after, and 1 and 3 months later. Meaning in informal caregiving correlated positively with happiness but the intervention did not significantly enhance the perception of meaning in caregiving or happiness. Over time, meaning in caregiving positively predicted meaning in life, which in turn positively predicted happiness. The findings imply that even in situations that are also experienced as burdensome, people can perceive meaning and the association between meaning and happiness persists. Features of the intervention or sample, or partly negative affective responses may explain why the intervention did not show the expected effects. Keywords: Happiness; informal caregiving; randomized clinical trial (RCT); positive psychology; meaning in life
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen