Informal care is a fundamental component of care in the community which, given current demographic trends and increasing prevalence of debilitating chronic disease, is likely to assume even greater significance in future. Research indicates that caregivers are more likely than non-carers to report poor health, though this has usually been measured in terms of psychological or emotional health such as depression or ‘caregiver strain’. Relatively little is known about the effects of caring on physical health. This study examines the health of caregivers recorded in the 2001 Northern Ireland Census and their subsequent mortality over the following four years. Caregivers were a heterogeneous group, with those providing fewer hours of care being relatively more affluent than those providing care at greater intensities. Overall, caregivers had lower mortality risks than non-carers and effects were more pronounced for women, older people, and for those reporting poorer health at the start of the study period. While this study does not exclude the possibility of significant detrimental health effects of caring for some sub-groups of caregivers, it does add support to the growing body of literature which suggests that the positive aspects of caring have been underreported.
O’Reilly, D., Rosato, M., and Connolly, S. (2007) Urban and rural variations in morbidity and mortality in Northern Ireland. BMC Public Health, 7:123.
O’Reilly, D., Connolly, S., Rosato, M., and Patterson, C. (2008) Is caring associated with an increased risk of mortality? A longitudinal study. Soc Sci Med, 67(8):1282-90.
NILS Research Brief 3 February 2011: Is caring associated with increased mortality in Northern Ireland?