Characteristics and well-being of informal caregivers: Results from a nationally-representative US survey

Chronic Illn. 2014 Sep;10(3):167-79. doi: 10.1177/1742395313506947. Epub 2013 Oct 23.


Objectives: Given ongoing concerns about high levels of burden reported among some informal caregivers, the goal of this study was to characterize their sociodemographics, health, and well-being.

Methods: Using cross-sectional data from a large nationally representative survey in the United States (N = 438,712) we identified adults who provided informal care to friends or family members with a health problem, long-term illness, or disability. Descriptive statistics and propensity matching were used to characterize caregivers and compare their health and social support to sociodemographically-similar adults who were not caregivers. Logistic regression models examined associations between caregiving and respondents' mental health, general health, perceived social support, and sleep problems.

Results: A total of 111,156 (25.3%) participants reported being caregivers, most of whom reported good mental health (90%) good general health (83%), and adequate social support (77%). After adjusting for respondents' gender, caregivers reported worse mental health than non-caregivers (odds ratio (OR) = 1.35, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.31-1.39 for >15 days poor mental health in the past month) but better general health (OR = 0.96, 95%CI = 0.94-0.98 for fair or poor health). Men caregivers reported somewhat worse overall health than non-caregivers (OR = 1.09, 95%CI = 1.05-1.13) whereas women reported better overall health.

Discussion: Although reporting good overall well-being, caregivers remain vulnerable for worse outcomes than non-caregivers. Caregiving is associated with poor mental health, and may have additional impacts on the physical health of caregiving men.

Keywords: Caregiver; informal caregiving; survey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Caregivers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dyssomnias / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep
  • Social Support*
  • United States / epidemiology