Although depressive symptomatology has been well studied in caregivers of patients with dementia, depressive disorders have been examined much less. We conducted a systematic literature search in major bibliographical databases (Medline, Psychinfo, Dissertation Abstracts), and included studies examining caregivers of dementia patients that reported the prevalence of major depressive disorder, according to diagnostic criteria as assessed with a standardized psychiatric diagnostic interview. Ten studies with a total of 790 caregivers were identified (sample sizes: 22-147). In only one of the studies, a representative community sample was used. A total of 176 subjects (22.3%) had a depressive disorder (prevalence range from 0.15-0.32). In the three studies reporting differential prevalence rates for men and women somewhat smaller prevalence rates were found for men than for women. In six studies caregivers were compared to a (mostly matched) control group. The relative risks of having a depressive disorder in caregivers ranged from 2.80-38.68 (all RR's were significant). In the three prospective studies relatively high incidence rates were found (0.48). This study made it clear that prevalence and incidence of depressive disorders are increased in caregivers of dementia patients. More research is clearly needed in this population.