Informal Caregiver Burden and Benefits and Older Adult Mortality: A Survival Analysis.J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2020 Jan 06 [Online ahead of print]JG
Informal caregivers are crucial to maintaining older adults' health, but few studies examine how caregiving receipt is associated with older person longevity. In a nationally representative sample, we prospectively explore whether and how having an informal caregiver is associated with older adult overall mortality, and how caregivers' burden and benefits perceptions relate to care recipient mortality.
We match six National Health and Aging Trends Study waves (2011-2016) with 2011 National Study of Caregiving data, conducting survival analysis on 7,369 older adults and 1,327 older adult-informal caregiver dyads.
Having an informal caregiver is associated with 36% (p<0.001) higher mortality risk over 6-year follow-up, adjusting for demographic, economic and health factors. Older adults whose caregivers perceive only burden have 38% higher (p<0.05) mortality risk than those with caregivers reporting neither burden nor benefits. This risk is reduced from 38% higher to 5% higher (p<0.001) for older adults with caregivers reporting benefits alongside burden, compared to those with caregivers reporting neither perception.
Having a caregiver may signal impending decline beyond known mortality factors. However, interventions to increase caregivers' benefit perceptions and reduce their burden may decrease mortality risk for older adults with declining health and functional ability.