Published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Psychological and Social Sciences, February 2024.
This study investigates the psychological well-being of informal caregivers over time. It identifies the thresholds (or “tipping points”) of caring intensity at which caregiving is associated with lower psychological well-being, and how this varies by care location and caregiver–care recipient relationships. It also examines how caring location and relationship are linked to informal caregivers’ psychological well-being while controlling for caring intensity.
Waves 1–18 (1991–2009) of the harmonized British Household Panel Survey and Waves 1–8 (2009–2017) of the U.K. Household Longitudinal Study were analyzed. Psychological well-being was measured using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ)-12 score. Care intensity was measured by the weekly hours of care provided. Fixed-effects estimators were applied to the GHQ-12 score of caregivers across different care intensities, caring locations, and caring relationships.
All levels of informal care intensity are associated with lower psychological well-being among spousal caregivers. The thresholds to well-being are 5 hours per week when caring for a parent, and 50 hours per week when caring for a child (with a disability or long-term illness). Caring for “other relatives” or nonrelatives is not negatively associated with psychological well-being. The thresholds are 5 hours per week for both coresident and extraresident caregivers. Extraresident caregivers experience better psychological well-being compared to coresident caregivers, given relatively lower weekly care hours. Caring for primary kin (especially spouses) is linked to lower psychological well-being compared to other caregiving relationships, regardless of care intensity.
Policy and practice responses should pay particular attention to spousal caregivers’ well-being. Caregiving relationship has a stronger association with the caregiver’s well-being than care location.