Being a caregiver linked to poor health behaviors among baby boomers
Elderly Health/Long-Term Care
If you are a baby boomer who is an informal caregiver, you have greater odds of having behaviors that increase your health risk, according to a new study. The incidence of chronic illness (e.g., obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease) among boomers, men and women born between 1946 and 1964, has grown in recent years. This group also has higher obesity rates and has spent more of their lifespan obese than have previous generations. More than 10 million adults over age 50 care for an aging parent. To see if caregiving stress plays a role in poor health behaviors, the researchers compared the health behaviors of 5,688 California baby boomers who were informal caregivers to that of 12,941 noncaregiving boomers.
The caregivers were slightly older than the noncaregivers (by 0.5 years), more likely to be women (59.8 percent vs. 47.4 percent), more likely to be educated beyond high school, more likely to have higher family income, but less likely to be employed. After controlling for psychological distress, and for personal characteristics and social resources, the caregivers had 127 percent the odds of noncaregivers of poor overall health behaviors. Compared to noncaregivers, caregivers had 36 percent greater odds of being a current smoker, 41 percent greater odds of consuming soda at least 3.5 times weekly, and 17 percent greater odds of eating fast food at least once a week.
The researchers did not find significant differences in health-risk behaviors for spousal caregivers compared to adult children, other relatives, or nonrelatives—or for higher intensity of caregiving (an additional hour per week or an extra month of caregiving). The findings were based on data on 18,629 noninstitutionalized adults of baby boomer age from the 2009 California Health Interview Survey. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00046).
More details are in "Health behaviors among baby boomer informal caregivers," by Geoffrey J. Hoffman, MPH, Jihey Lee, PhD, and Carolyn Mendez–Luck, PhD, MPH, in the April 2012 The Gerontologist 52(2), pp. 219-230.