CaregivingElderlyPalliative/End of Life

Beneficial health effects of care giving

Medical News Today reports on this study in the journal, Psychological Science.

Apparently, “older people who spent at least 14 hours a week taking care of a disabled spouse lived longer than others” who spent less time or no time, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.

First, the details.

  • The authors reviewed 7 years of data from a nationally representative sample of Americans age 70 and older.
  • Each of the 1688 couples reported how much help they received from their spouse in everyday activities, including eating, dressing and bathing, preparing meals, managing money, and taking medicine.
  • All the couples lived on their own.

And, the results.

  • 81% said they received no help at all from their spouse.
  • 9% reported getting less than 14 hours of help a week.
  • 10% reported getting at least 14 hours of help each week.
  • Partners who provided at least 14 hours of care a week to their spouse were significantly less likely to die during the study than those who provided no spousal care.
  • The significance held after correcting for possible confounding factors which as health, age, race, gender, education, employment status, and net worth.

The bottom line?
The authors conclude, “The results of this study add to a growing literature on the positive, beneficial health effects of care giving, helping, and altruism.”

That’s news to me.

I was under the impression that caregivers frequently suffered from depression, stress, and other problems listed here. It’s thought that part of the reason that caregivers often have health problems is that they’re less likely to take good care of themselves.

It appears however, that the presumed stress of providing help is much less than the stress of witnessing a loved one suffer, say the authors.

For people who find themselves in the midst of caregiving or know people who are, Strength for Caring is a website that provides family caregivers with information, inspiration, and much needed support.

11/27/08 21:28 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.