Health-related quality of life in a national sample of caregivers: Findings from the behavioral risk factor surveillance system

Britta Neugaard, Elena Andresen, Sarah L. McKune, Eric W. Jamoom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Purpose: Recent national public health agendas, such as Healthy People 2010, call for improved public health surveillance and health promotion programs for people with disabilities and their caregivers. The goal of this study was to understand the public health impact of caregiving on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) using population-level data. Design & Methods: A cross-sectional study design was used. 184,450 adults surveyed during the 2000 national Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey formed the sample. Binary logistic regression models ascertained differences between caregivers and non-caregivers in reporting reduced ("fair" or "poor") health. Ordinary least squares regression (OLS) and multinomial logistic regression models examined the influence of caregiving status on HRQoL, measured as categories of healthy days reported in the last 30 days and the number of days reported as physical and mental health not good in the last 30 days. Results: Sixteen percent (16%) of the survey respondents were caregivers. There was an interaction effect between caregiving status and age of the caregiver. In the fully adjusted models, caregivers <55 years old had a 35% increased risk of having fair or poor health (odds ratio [OR] = 1.35, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.28, 1.43) as compared to non-caregivers in that age group, while caregivers 55 years and older had a 3% decreased risk in having fair or poor health (OR = 0.97, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.92, 1.03) compared to non-caregivers of the same age. In the adjusted models that examined the association of caregiving and healthy days, younger caregivers similarly showed larger deficits in both mental and physical HRQoL compared to older caregivers. For example combining mental and physical days, caregivers <55 had 1.44 fewer healthy days (β = -1.44, standard error (SE) = 0.07), while caregivers 55+ had 0.55 fewer days*β = -0.55, standard error (SE) = 0.13 (compared to non-caregivers in their respective age groups). Implications: With increasing population age and the projected increase in caregivers, it is important that we understand the social and public health burden of caregiving and begin to identify interventions to sustain the HRQoL of caregivers. We found that caregivers have a slight to modest decline in HRQoL compared to non-caregivers, and that caregiving affects the HRQoL of younger adults more than older adults. Further research at the population level as to the type and level of burden of caregiving is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-575
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Epidemiology
  • Family care
  • Health status
  • Surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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