9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN01 Ageing in Europe

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Gender and Social Class Impact on Informal Caregiving Building II, C5.06

Impact of informal caregiving on caregivers wellbeing: gender differences

Background: Given the fact that informal caregiving has traditionally been provided by women, most caregiving-related studies have focused on women. However, as the population ages and demand for dependent elderly care increases, the number of males involved in caregiving activities has risen. Other studies suggest that female caregivers face higher levels of stress and report lower levels of well-being compared with male caregivers. Nonetheless, there is no answer to whether these gender disparities reflect mere gender differences concerning general well-being rather than caregiving-related issues. This paper describes informal caregivers? characteristics, quantifies the effect of caregiving activities on caregivers' health, and determines whether this effect differs by gender.

Methods: A descriptive study was carried out based on the Basque Health Survey 2002. Physical and mental health, use of health services, social health and health related quality of life (HRQL) indicators were compared among caregivers (n = 836) and non-caregivers (n = 5.706). Age-adjusted logistic regression models were applied to assess the association between caregiving and health status by sex and socioeconomic and occupational position.

Results: Female caregivers showed worse results in 6 out of 10 indicators compared with non-caregiving women, whereas male caregivers showed worse results in only 4 indicators compared with non-caregiving men. The association between caregiving and poor health results was stronger in women than in men, except for social health. When caregiving intensity was considered, greatly burdened men showed similar or even higher risk of poor HRQL than women (physical in men: OR = 3.0; CI 95% 1.4-6.3; women: OR = 2.3; CI 95% 1.5-3.5; mental in men: OR = 2.5; CI 95% 1.4-4.3; women: OR = 2.5; CI 95% 1.7-3.7) and lower social support (affective support in men: OR = 2.6; CI 95% 1.5-4.6; women: OR = 1.5; CI 95% 1.0-2.3). However, the risk of sedentariness, lack of sleep, greater use of health services and mental illness remained higher for female caregivers.

Conclusions: Caregiving damages the health of informal caregivers, but the risk among female caregivers is higher due to the greater intensity of caregiving burden. As mens caregiving burden increases, gender inequalities decrease or invert.