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Anticipatory grief prevalence among caregivers of persons with a life-threatening illness: A meta-analysis


Objectives Caring for a family member with a life-threatening illness may lead to increased levels of psychological morbidity. Given the lack of recognition of caregivers’ grief, this study aimed to determine the prevalence of anticipatory grief disorders in caregivers of persons with a life-threatening illness for better intervention and management.

Methods CINAHL, Cochrane, Embase, Medline, PubMed, Scopus, PsycINFO and Web of Science were searched up to 21 March 2021 without language and time restrictions. The quality of the included studies was assessed with Hoy’s criteria. A random-effects model was applied to calculate pooled prevalence rates, and multi-regression was performed to examine heterogeneity among studies.

Results A total of 3278 citations were retrieved, and 18 studies met the eligibility criteria involving 5470 caregivers. The pooled prevalence of anticipatory grief was 24.78% (95% CI 19.04% to 30.99%). The prevalence rates were significantly higher in female caregivers (16.64%; 95% CI 12.24% to 21.53%) compared with male caregivers (6.11%; 95% CI 4.55% to 7.87%). The married group also had a higher risk (14.66%; 95% CI 10.66% to 19.16%) than single group (5.47%; 95% CI 4.31% to 6.76%).

Conclusions The overall pooled prevalence is substantially higher compared with after-loss grief in the general population and supported the presumptions that preloss grief has a greater magnitude compared with after-loss grief. Bereavement support, educational programmes and relevant resources should be delivered even before the actual loss to address the burden of caregivers.

  • bereavement
  • family management
  • psychological care

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. Not applicable.

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