Who Cares? The Mental Health of Older Adults Serving as Caregivers
Gorman, Bridget K
Master of Arts
Drawing on data from the 2010-2011 wave of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), this study explores caregiving and mental health among older adults using stress process as a theoretical framework. I began with descriptive analyses in order to document the characteristics of older caregivers, including differences by gender. Following, I used regression models to investigate how mental strain relates to caregiving characteristics (e.g., frequency of caregiving, reason that care is provided) among older adult caregivers, and additionally, whether these relationships vary by gender. Descriptive results show that in general, older caregivers tend to be women, retired, relatively well networked, and they care for someone other than a spouse, parent, or child/grandchild. Additionally, the descriptive analyses revealed that women report more mental strain and provide more hours of care per week, while men are more educated and make up a significantly larger percentage of caregivers who are married or cohabiting. Multivariate regression results indicated that among caregivers, a number of aspects of the caregiver relationship (i.e., hours of care provided, the relationship to the person being cared for) are related to emotional strain, and that a greater number of aspects of the caregiving relationship predicted emotional strain among men as compared to women. The implications of these findings for both gender and caregiving among older populations are discussed.
Caregiving; older adults; mental health