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How can caregiving affect my health?

Caregivers are at risk for many different physical and mental health challenges. In general, they suffer from high levels of stress and frustration, show higher levels of depression than the general population, sometimes exhibit harmful behaviors, from increased use of alcohol or other substances to higher than normal levels of hostility.

Caregivers are also physically less healthy than noncaregivers, and have more chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis than their noncaregiving peers. They may also suffer from poorer immune function and from exhaustion. They neglect their own care (have lower levels of self care and preventive health behaviors than others), and have higher mortality rates than noncaregivers of the same age. Given these odds, caregivers need to take good care of themselves, and reduce their levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.

Studies find that middle-aged and older women who provide care for an ill or disabled spouse are six times as likely to suffer depressive or anxious symptoms as those who have no caregiving responsibilities. Other possible health effects include:

  • weakened immune system
  • higher risk of cardiovascular disease
  • higher risk of high blood pressure

Women caregivers also have a risk of dying earlier, studies find. That may be related to the effects of stress on their health, the fact that they don’t take care of their own health or because the caregiving may worsen an existing illness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.