The economic value of long-term family caregiving. The situation of caregivers of persons with spinal cord injury in Switzerland

Health Soc Care Community. 2022 Sep;30(5):e2297-e2307. doi: 10.1111/hsc.13668. Epub 2021 Dec 1.


Health systems rely on the unpaid work of family caregivers. Nevertheless, demographic changes suggest a shortage of caregivers in the near future, which can constrain the long-term care policy in many countries. In order to find ways to support family caregivers, a primary effort would be to estimate how much their work is worth. This paper estimates the economic value of long-term family caregivers and how these costs would be shared by the health system, the social insurances and the cared-for person in the absence of informal caregivers. We use data of 717 family caregivers of persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) in Switzerland. We implemented the proxy-good method and estimated the market value of their work if performed by professional caregivers. Our results show that family caregivers in the sample spent an average of 27 hr per week caring for a relative for almost 12 years. This work, if undertaken by professional home care, has a market value of CHF 62,732 (EUR 56,455) per year. In the absence of family caregivers, these costs should be financed by the health insurances (47%), by the cared-for person (24%) and by the social insurances (29%). It is in the best interest of the cared-for person and of the healthcare and social systems to keep a sustained supply of family caregivers. One option is finding ways to recognise and compensate them for their work and make it less cumbersome.

Keywords: chronic illness and disability; family caregivers; health economics; health systems; long-term care; social care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers
  • Cost of Illness
  • Home Care Services*
  • Humans
  • Spinal Cord Injuries*
  • Switzerland