Purpose: Informal caregivers for patients with cancer provide critical emotional and instrumental support, but this role can cause substantial burden. This study expands our understanding of cancer-related caregiving burden in Europe.
Methods: Caregivers (n = 1,713) for patients with cancer and non-caregivers (n = 103,868) were identified through the 2010 and 2011 European Union National Health and Wellness Survey, administered via the Internet to adult populations in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Respondents completed measures of sociodemographics and health behaviors, health-related quality of life (using SF-12v2), work productivity and activity impairment (using WPAI), healthcare resource use (emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and traditional provider visits), and reported diagnosis of stress-related comorbidities (depression, anxiety, insomnia, headache, migraine, and gastrointestinal problems). Two-sided tests of means or proportions compared caregivers against non-caregivers. Multivariable regression models, comparing caregivers for patients with any cancer vs. non-caregivers on all health outcomes, adjusted for covariates (age, sex, college, income, marital status, employment, body mass index, alcohol, smoking, and Charlson comorbidity index).
Results: Caregivers for patients with cancer vs. non-caregivers reported significant (P < 0.05) impairment across all health outcomes, even after adjusting for several confounds (e.g., 3.26-point lower mental health status, 0.043-point lower health utilities, 1.46 times as much work impairment, and 1.97 times the odds of anxiety).
Conclusions: Caregivers for patients with cancer experienced significant impairments. These findings reinforce the need for enhancing our understanding of the caregiving experience and developing supportive and personalized multicomponent interventions for caregivers, given their pivotal role in providing support for patients.