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Characteristics and well-being of informal caregivers: Results from a nationally-representative US survey.

Trivedi R, Beaver K, Bouldin ED, Eugenio E, Zeliadt SB, Nelson K, Rosland AM, Szarka JG, Piette JD. Characteristics and well-being of informal caregivers: Results from a nationally-representative US survey. Chronic Illness. 2014 Sep 1; 10(3):167-79.

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OBJECTIVES: Given ongoing concerns about high levels of burden reported among some informal caregivers, the goal of this study was to characterize their sociodemographics, health, and well-being. METHODS: Using cross-sectional data from a large nationally representative survey in the United States (N = 438,712) we identified adults who provided informal care to friends or family members with a health problem, long-term illness, or disability. Descriptive statistics and propensity matching were used to characterize caregivers and compare their health and social support to sociodemographically-similar adults who were not caregivers. Logistic regression models examined associations between caregiving and respondents' mental health, general health, perceived social support, and sleep problems. RESULTS: A total of 111,156 (25.3%) participants reported being caregivers, most of whom reported good mental health (90%) good general health (83%), and adequate social support (77%). After adjusting for respondents' gender, caregivers reported worse mental health than non-caregivers (odds ratio (OR) = 1.35, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.31-1.39 for > 15 days poor mental health in the past month) but better general health (OR = 0.96, 95%CI = 0.94-0.98 for fair or poor health). Men caregivers reported somewhat worse overall health than non-caregivers (OR = 1.09, 95%CI = 1.05-1.13) whereas women reported better overall health. DISCUSSION: Although reporting good overall well-being, caregivers remain vulnerable for worse outcomes than non-caregivers. Caregiving is associated with poor mental health, and may have additional impacts on the physical health of caregiving men.

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