Scrutinizing Supports & Stressors for Informal Caregivers

In light of the crucial importance of informal caregivers of older adults and how taxing their work can be, a recent study looked into what factors influence caregivers’ subjective well-being, as well as how supports for these caregivers may impact their burden and well-being.

Informal, unpaid caregivers play a major role in providing care to older adults in need. In light of the crucial importance of these caregivers and how taxing their work can be, a recent study looked into what factors influence caregivers’ subjective well-being. This study then examined the degree to which caregiver support from paid assistance, other informal caregivers, or family and friends may alleviate the negative influences on their well-being.

The study found that the subjective well-being of the 4,717 participants surveyed was directly correlated with their caregiving burden (meaning the amount of strain that caregivers reported from undertaking caregiving tasks.) In turn, the amount of caregiver burden reported was associated with greater time spent caregiving and all three of the main potential stressors that the study measured: the care recipients’ cognitive impairment, functional disability, and problem behavior. Of these stressors, this study showed that problem behavior was most strongly associated with poorer well-being. Moreover, regardless of the amount of burden reported by the caregiver, greater time spent caregiving was also associated with lower well-being.

As for the impact of support, the researchers found that formal or informal support was “especially effective in alleviating pressure in terms of the number of hours of informal caregiving.” On the other hand, such support was found to be less effective in relieving caregiver burden and boosting subjective well-being.

These findings suggest that other than offering relief in the time spent caregiving, the presence of other paid or unpaid individuals alone was not sufficient to alleviate caregiver burden or improve their subjective well-being. In light of this, greater attention will need to be paid to how specific activities performed by supporting individuals or interventions designed for caregivers may impact their burden and subjective well-being.



Verbakel I, Metzelthin SF, and Kempen GIJM. Caregiving to older adults: determinants of informal caregivers’ subjective well-being and formal and informal support as alleviating conditions. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B (2018); 73(6):   1099–1111.


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