Rural Caregiving and Health Outcomes in the United States

By Steven A. Cohen, Monique J. Brown and Kenneth K.H. Chui.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

“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

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.37-51. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 504.086KB).

Prof. Steven A. Cohen

Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA

Dr. Cohen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Community Health, Division of Epidemiology, at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, Virginia. He is public health demographer and social epidemiologist studying the impacts of aging on population health in the US. Previously, Dr. Cohen was a member of the faculty at the Tufts University School of Medicine for four years in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. He received his Doctorate of Public Health in population studies at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health after receiving his MPH in Biostatistics and Epidemiology from the Tufts School of Medicine.

Monique J. Brown

Research Assistant, Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA

Ms. Brown is a PhD candidate in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Community Health, Division of Epidemiology, at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. She currently studies the social epidemiology of HIV and mental health in the United States. Prior to her PhD work, she worked at the Boston Public Health Commission on several cutting-edge initiatives to combat racial and ethnic health disparities in the city. She earned her MPH from Brown University and her BS from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.

Prof. Kenneth K.H. Chui

Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA

Dr. Chui is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts. He has collaborated on numerous interdisciplinary research projects in aging, and has studied how climate and weather events influence health for aging populations. Dr. Chui received his PhD and MS in Nutrition from the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and his MPH from the Tufts University School of Medicine.