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Publication #FAR6075

Caregiver Stress and Health1

Carol Church2

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While I know the country is aging, it still comes as a shock to learn that the number of adults ages 65 and older is expected to double in the next 15 or so years! Who will be caring for them? Most likely, family members.

Unfortunately, caregiving may sometimes come at quite a cost. Recent research from the American Psychological Association’s report Stress in America (2012) finds that people who serve as caregivers have higher stress and poorer health than the U.S. population in general and than people in their same age bracket.

The stress of caregiving can result in serious health impacts, such as premature and increased mortality, “coronary heart disease and stroke” (American Psychological Association 2012, p. 6), “high cholesterol, high blood pressure, overweight [or] obesity, and depression” (APA, 2012, p. 7). And, it can aggravate existing health conditions.

Usually stress declines in later years, but for older adults who are caregivers this does not happen. Importantly, caregivers are less satisfied than their non-caregiving peers with their marriage, friendships, and health.

Caregivers also “have a greater tendency to engage in unhealthy behaviors to alleviate stress [such as watching a lot of TV and smoking]--than the population at large” (APA, 2012, p. 5). They are less likely to use “preventive health behaviors than non-caregivers” (APA, 2012, p. 7).

However, caregivers who feel they get enough support from others feel less alone; have less anger, depression, and stress, and are more likely to employ stress management strategies.

These findings suggest that caregiver stress is a growing health concern, but that feeling supported by other family members makes a big difference in caregivers’ lives.

Listening, learning, and living together: it’s the science of life. “Family Album” is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension and the UF Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences. If you’d like to learn more, please visit our website at http://www.familyalbumradio.org, or find Family Album Radio on Facebook.

To listen to this segment visit: http://radiosource.net/radio_stories/1887.mp3

Reference

American Psychological Association (APA) (2012). Stress in America: Our health at Risk. Retrieved March 6, 2012 from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/index.aspx

Footnotes

1.

This document is FAR6075, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original broadcast date March 6, 2012, as program 1887. Published on EDIS March 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.