Preventive health behaviors among spousal caregivers

Prev Med. Mar-Apr 1997;26(2):162-9. doi: 10.1006/pmed.1996.0129.


Background: The physical and emotional burden of caring for a functionally impaired spouse may adversely affect the preventive health behavior of the caregiver. This study explores the relationship between caregiving and lifestyle health behaviors and use of preventive services.

Methods: The Caregiver Health Effects Study identified spousal caregivers among a sample of more than 3,000 married, community-dwelling older persons, from four counties in the United States, who were enrollees in the Cardiovascular Health Study. High-level caregivers were defined as having a spouse with an ADL impairment (n = 212) and moderate-level caregivers, a spouse with one or more IADL impairments (n = 222). For each caregiver, a control, matched for age and gender, was selected (n = 385). Structured interviews were conducted in the home, following enrollment.

Results: Being a high-level caregiver significantly increased the odds of not getting enough rest, not having enough time to exercise, not having time to rest to recuperate from illness, and forgetting to take prescription medications, compared with noncaregivers. These findings did not hold for moderate-level caregivers. The odds were not significantly different for either level of caregiver compared with noncaregivers for missing meals, missing doctor appointments, missing flu shots, and not refilling medications. Larger proportions of caregivers with a strong sense of control had good preventive health behaviors, compared with caregivers with a weak sense of control.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / classification
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Life Style*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Self Care
  • Social Support
  • Spouses / classification
  • United States