The Health Behaviour of German Outpatient Caregivers in Relation to Their Working Conditions: A Qualitative Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jun 1;18(11):5942. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18115942.


Ongoing demographic change is leading to an increasingly older society and a rising proportion of people in need of care in the German population. Therefore, the professional group of outpatient caregivers is highly relevant. Their work is characterised not only by interacting with patients in a mobile setting but also by working in shifts. Health behaviour under these specific working conditions is crucial for ensuring long-term work ability and performance. Little is known about the health behaviour of German outpatient caregivers and its potential impact on their work. The aims of the study were (1) to examine health behavioural patterns (nutrition, exercise, smoking, regeneration) of outpatient caregivers, (2) to illuminate their personal health-promoting behaviours, and (3) to identify potential work-related factors influencing their health behaviour. Fifteen problem-centred interviews were conducted with outpatient caregivers working in Northern Germany in the period January-April 2020. Interviews were analysed by using qualitative content analysis. Outpatient caregivers reported improvable nutrition and hydration, with simultaneous high coffee consumption, low physical activity, poor regeneration (breaks and sleep quality), and good personal health-promoting behaviour (e.g., back-friendly habits), although the majority were smokers. Barriers to the implementation of health-promoting behaviours were a high perception of stress due to increased workload and time pressure, while aids to better health-promoting behaviour were described as being social support and personal resources. The respondents perceived their working conditions as potentially influencing their health behaviour. On the basis of their descriptions, various practice-relevant strategies were derived. The data explore a potential need for outpatient care services to develop interventions on behavioural and structural levels that can help create healthier working conditions for their employees so these caregivers can adopt better health behaviours.

Keywords: health behaviour; nutrition; outpatient care; physical activity; regeneration; stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers*
  • Germany
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Outpatients*
  • Qualitative Research