“Health care” is commonly thought to be exclusively provided by health professionals, such as physicians and nurses. Yet, in the US, there are over 50 million caregivers who provide informal care to individuals living with disabilities and chronic illness, comprising a critical component of healthcare delivery. The provision of informal care is essential both to the care recipients and to society because it reduces costs and strains on the healthcare system. Although there are some positive health benefits of caregiving for the caregiver, the associations between caregiving and several negative health outcomes are well-documented. Few studies to date have examined how these associations differ by location and rurality, however. Therefore, the objective of this study was to assess how the association between caregiving and health status and specific health outcomes are modified by rurality. We used 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data to assess the potential for effect modification by rurality using stratification and adjusting for interaction terms. Although the findings were mixed, there is evidence to suggest that caregivers in rural communities may experience more detrimental health-related consequences of informal caregiving, possibly due to issues surrounding social support or infrastructure needed to mitigate these health effects of caregiving. Additionally, these findings support the need to stimulate research and develop policies and programs designed to protect the health of rural informal caregivers, to maintain and strengthen this vital component of the health care system across the US.
|Keywords:||Informal Caregiving, Aging, Rural-Urban Disparities, General Health|
Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA
Research Assistant, Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA
Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA