Older adult women have lower death rates than non-caregivers, study finds: ‘Sense of purpose’
Caregiving was associated with a lower risk of death older women in the US, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“Our hypothesis is that caregiving may provide a sense of purpose and/or fulfillment of socio-cultural responsibility for the family, as well as increasing age-resilience characteristics in the areas of physical health and psychiatry,” said study author Michael J. LaMonte, PhD, a professor at the University at Buffalo-SUNY School of Epidemiology and Public Health in New Yorkto Fox News Digital.
Together with a team of researchers from several universities across the country, LaMonte analyzed nearly 159,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 over 20 years, all of whom were enrolled in the National Longitudinal Health Study. Women’s Health. Initiative.
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The women who described themselves as caregivers had a 9% lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who did not care, according to the study results.
The researchers also found that the care group had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases or cancer. The associations did not vary by race, age, depressive symptoms, hope, standard of living or frequency of caregiving, the study authors said in the findings.
Given the added stress of caring for a loved one, these findings may surprise some, LaMonte told Fox News Digital.
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“The published scientific literature is somewhat mixed on this,” he said.
“There have been studies that show physical and physical deterioration mental health profiles and increased mortality risk among caregivers—however, there are also studies like ours that suggest that caregiving may be positively associated with health outcomes in caregivers. “
As people are living longer and the US population is aging, more research is needed on the impact of caregiving on a person’s health, LaMonte told Fox News Digital.
“Care has been identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a public health issue in an aging population,” he said.
There is a “significant information gap” when it comes to understanding the health effects of being a caregiver, LaMonte noted — “especially for older women who are caregivers.”
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Dr. Nancy Frye, PhD, professor of psychology at 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 findings. .
“There are risks and benefits to caring – and whether it increases or decreases mortality seems to depend on many factors.”
“Although some health factors have been controlled for, it may be that women are responsible for being caregivers. healthier first“, she noted.
“Another possibility may be linked to a sense of purpose and emotion that is missing. ”
More research is needed, the professor said, to examine these associations.
A geriatrician who was not involved in the study told Fox News Digital that many people are caregivers in some way.
“There are many types of caregivers, and not all caregivers are the same,” said Dr. Marzena Gieniusz, MD, a geriatrician at Northwell Health on Long Island, New York.
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“Some are associated with a higher caregiver burden than others, which may increase mortality,” Gieniusz continued.
The act of caring, however, can be beneficial and rewarding, she said, because it can provide a sense of value and purpose in life.
“Like anything else, there are risks and benefits to caring – and whether it increases or decreases mortality seems to depend on many factors, including the balance between the risks and benefits present in any particular case or group,” said Gieniusz.
For those who are currently caregivers, LaMonte emphasized the importance of taking time to care for themselves.
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“It is essential that you are aware of your own health, regardless of their role in their families and social networks,” she said.
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“Making time for regular health check-ups and being smart with self-health activities – such as nutrition, physical activity and mental well-being – equally essential for the carer and the person being cared for.”
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