Caregiving was associated with a lower risk of death among older women in the United States, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“Our hypothesis is that caregiving could provide a sense of purpose and/or fulfill a sociocultural responsibility to the family, as well as potentially improve aging-related resilience factors in the areas of physical and psychological health,” study corresponding author Michael J. LaMonte. , PhD, professor at the University at Buffalo-SUNY School of Epidemiology and Public Health At New Yorktold Fox News Digital.
With a team of researchers from several universities across the country, LaMonte analyzed nearly 159,000 women ages 50 to 79 over a 20-year period, all of whom were enrolled in the National Long-Term Health Study known as Women’s Health. Initiative.
BE WELL: TAKE SMART STEPS TO REDUCE CAREGIVING STRESS
According to the study results, women who identified themselves as caregivers had a 9% lower risk of dying from any cause compared to non-caregivers.
The researchers also found that the caregiver group had a lower risk of death from heart disease or cancer. The associations did not vary by race, ethnicity, age, depressive symptoms, optimism, living status, or frequency of caregiving, the study authors said in the results.
Given the potential added stress of caring for a loved one, some might be surprised by these findings, LaMonte told Fox News Digital.
AMERICA’S CAREGIVER FATIGUE IS INCREASING AT AN UNPRECEDENTED RATE: REPORTS
“The published scientific literature is somewhat mixed in this regard,” he said.
“There have been studies that show worse physical conditions and Mental Health profiles and increased risk of mortality among caregivers – however, there are also studies like ours that suggest caregiving may be favorably associated with health outcomes among caregivers.
As people live longer and the aging U.S. population continues to grow, more research is needed on the effect of caregiving on an individual’s health, LaMonte told Fox News Digital.
“Care care has been identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a public health issue in an aging population,” he said.
There is a “significant knowledge gap” when it comes to understanding the health impact of being a caregiver, LaMonte noted — “particularly as it relates to older female caregivers.”
TEENAGER IS PRIMARY CAREGIVER OF NEW MEXICO MOM WITH MS: “WE ARE A TEAM”
Dr. Nancy Frye, PhD, professor of psychology at the Long Island University School of Health Professions in Brookville, New York, was not involved in the study but said there could be several reasons for these positive results.
“Caregiving has risks and benefits, and whether it increases or decreases mortality likely depends on many factors.”
“Even if certain health factors have been taken into account, women who must become caregivers may be healthier to start“, she noted.
“Another possibility might be related to a sense of usefulness and a sense of need.”
Further research is needed, the professor said, to explore these associations.
A geriatrician who was not involved in the study told Fox News Digital that many people are caregivers in one way or another.
“There are many different types of caregivers, and not all care is the same,” said Dr. Marzena Gieniusz, MD, a geriatrician at Northwell Health. Long Island, New York.
FROM CAREGIVER TO CARRIER: IOWA WOMAN, 27, HAS 99% CHANCE OF GETTING HER FATHER’S DEMENTIA, REMAINS HOPE
“Some are associated with higher caregiver burden than others, which may actually increase mortality,” Gieniusz continued.
However, the act of caregiving can also be rewarding and beneficial, she added, because it can provide a sense of value and purpose in life.
“As with anything else, care has risks and benefits – and whether it increases or decreases mortality likely depends on many factors, including the balance between those risks and benefits present in a given case or particular group,” Gieniusz said.
As for those who are currently caregivers, LaMonte stressed the importance of taking time to care for themselves.
CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR HEALTH NEWSLETTER
“Being aware of your own health is essential, regardless of the role you play within your family and social networks,” she said.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“Take time for regular health checkups and exercise caution in self-health activities – like nutrition, physical activity and mental well-being – is as essential for the caregiver as it is for the recipient of care.
For more health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.