Spinal Cord advance online publication 27 June 2017; doi: 10.1038/sc.2017.56

The impact of spinal cord injury on the quality of life of primary family caregivers: a literature review

J Lynch1 and R Cahalan2

  1. 1Physiotherapy Department, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2Health Sciences Building, Faculty of Education and Health Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

Correspondence: J Lynch, Physiotherapy Department, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin A96P235, Ireland. E-mail:

Received 5 December 2016; Revised 14 April 2017; Accepted 16 April 2017
Advance online publication 27 June 2017



Study design:


Literature review.



To provide a detailed review of the literature regarding the impact of spinal cord injury (SCI) on the quality of life (QOL) of family members who have become the primary caregiver and to highlight potential interventions available.



Appropriate databases were searched for relevant peer-reviewed studies. Twenty-five studies (four qualitative and 21 quantitative) were identified which investigated the role that family members play in caring for people with SCI and the impact it has on their QOL.



Depression, anxiety, physical symptoms and reduced satisfaction with life in primary family caregivers of patients with SCI were commonly reported across the literature. Isolation, loss of identity and role changes were also regularly reported as negative outcomes of caregiving for someone with an SCI. A range of interventions (including family training, problem-solving training and support groups) have been shown to have benefits for family caregivers' QOL.



SCI impacts significantly on the QOL of family caregivers, with major implications for physical, mental and social aspects of caregiver health. This review highlights that these important issues are problematic internationally and may persist over several decades. The need for focused interventions to support family caregivers of spinal cord injured persons, with particular emphasis on increasing patient/family education and access to support groups, is recommended.