Research Activities, November-December 2013
Individuals living with chronically ill household members have lower health-related quality of life
Caring for a chronically ill family member can have negative effects, not only on the caregiver, but on others living in the household as well. This "spillover of illness" can result in family members reporting less than optimal health, ac cording to a new study. This lower health-related quality of life affects both adults and children living in the household.
Researchers analyzed 4 years of data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), which collects information on individuals at 5 time points over a period of 2.5 years. Of particular interest was data on the medical conditions of each household member. Chronic conditions were defined as those lasting 12 months or more or those resulting in lasting physical impairment. The sample included 24,188 adults and children.
Nearly one-third of adults suffered from a chronic condition and 38 percent of adults were living with another adult who had a chronic condition. Among adults, the most common chronic conditions were hypertension, diabetes, joint diseases, and depression. Asthma and allergies were the most common chronic conditions for children.
Several conditions were associated with significantly lower health-related quality of life scores among household members living with someone having a chronic condition. These included mental disorders and respiratory conditions in adults and children; in just adults, musculoskeletal and nervous/sensory system diseases. There was a 30 percent reduction in odds of a person reporting perfect health from a household where a chronic condition was present. The largest reduction was found for family members living with children with newly occurring mental health conditions. The study was supported in part by AHRQ (HS14010).
See "Evidence of spillover of illness among household members: EQ-5D scores from a US sample," by Eve Witttenberg, Ph.D., Grant A. Ritter, Ph.D., and Lisa A. Prosser, Ph.D., in the February 2013 Medical Decision Making 33, pp. 235-243.