In the March 2014 edition of the University of California’s Berkeley Wellness Letter, I was intrigued by a report titled “Good News for Caregivers.” It was based on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study – published recently in the American Journal of Epidemiology -- that tracked 3,500 family caregivers (average age: 63) over six years. Researchers drew two particularly interesting conclusions:
- The caregivers experienced 18% lower mortality than their matched, non-caregiving equivalents in the control group,
- The greatest survival benefit affected those caregivers who were helping an elderly parent (a subgroup that represented about a third of all caregivers involved in the study).
Negative public health and media portrayals of the risks of family caregiving may do a disservice by portraying caregiving as dangerous and could potentially deter family members from taking on what can be a satisfying and healthy family role. Public discussions of caregiving should more accurately balance the potential risks and gains on this universal family role.