Informal caregiving by relatives is a great resource for individuals as well as for society, but the caregiving role is associated with health problems for the caregiver. This study aimed to compare caregivers' self-rated health, number of recent days with poor health and psychological wellbeing with that of non-caregivers in a general Swedish population.
From 2004 to 2013, 90,845 Swedish people completed a postal questionnaire about their health, number of recent days with poor health during last month, psychological wellbeing and if they were performing caregiving or not. Descriptive statistics, chi-square analysis, ANOVA, logistic regressions and negative binomial regression models were used to investigate associations between being a caregiver or not and health and wellbeing. Negative binomial regression was used to assess the relation between caregiver status and recent days with poor health or functioning.
Eleven percent reported having a caregiving role. Caregivers reported poorer self-rated health compared to non-caregivers, also in adjusted models; odds ratio (OR): 1.07 with a 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.01-1.13. Caregivers also reported lower psychological wellbeing compared to non-caregivers; OR: 1.22, CI: 1.15-1.30. Caregiving status was associated with more recent days with poor physical health and more recent days with poor mental health.
This study suggests that caregivers have worse perceptions in self-rated health and psychological wellbeing compared with non-caregivers, indicating that the role of caregiver is adversely associated with health. This association also appears in terms of reporting days of poor health in the last month. The underlying mechanism of these associations, including the potential detrimental health effects of being a caregiver, needs to be investigated in longitudinal studies.