Is caregiving hazardous to one's physical health? A meta-analysis

Psychol Bull. 2003 Nov;129(6):946-72. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.129.6.946.


Caring for a family member with dementia is generally regarded as a chronically stressful process, with potentially negative physical health consequences. However, no quantitative analysis has been conducted on this literature. The authors combined the results of 23 studies to compare the physical health of caregivers with demographically similar noncaregivers. When examined across 11 health categories, caregivers exhibited a slightly greater risk for health problems than did noncaregivers. However, sex and the health category assessed moderated this relationship. Stronger relationships occurred with stress hormones, antibodies, and global reported health. The authors argue that a theoretical model is needed that relates caregiver stressors to illness and proffers moderating roles for vulnerabilities and resources and mediating roles for psychosocial distress and health behaviors.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers* / psychology
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology