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Advisory Committee Chair

David L Roth

Advisory Committee Members

Michael Crowe

Virginia J Howard

Monika M Safford

Virginia G Wadley

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2010

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Purpose. This study examined how perceived caregiving strain is related to quality of life, mental and emotional health, and mortality in a large, national sample. Methods. We used 3,714 caregivers from the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. Participants had to complete baseline, in-home visit, and follow-up interviews to be included. Results. Approximately 12% of the REGARDS sample reported that they provided on-going care to a family member with chronic illness or a disability. Highly strained caregivers had the worst mental, physical, and emotional health but there was evidence of increased social support lessening the relationships between high caregiving strain and adverse dependent variables. Caregivers who reported a lot of strain from caregiving were at an increased risk for mortality. Mediation analyses were conducted to estimate the amount that self-rated health or caregiving strain differences between racial groups extend to differences in all-cause mortality rates. We found that 17.6% of the race effect on mortality was accounted for by self-rated health. Conclusions. Caregivers reporting higher levels of mental and emotional strain from caregiving have a greater chance of experiencing adverse health outcomes. African American caregivers are also at an increased risk for mortality, yet this effect is partially accounted for by worse reports of self-rated health. Through a combination of diverse samples and longitudinal studies, interventions can be developed to counteract the adverse health effects of caregiving.

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