Objectives: To prospectively investigate the impact of transitions in informal caregiving on emotional well-being over two years in a large population study of older people.
Methods: Information on provision of unpaid care in 2004/2005 and 2006/2007 was available for 6571 participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Three well-being domains were also assessed on each occasion: life satisfaction (measured with the Satisfaction with Life Scale); quality of life (assessed with the CASP-19 scale); and depression symptoms (measured using the Centers for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale). Multivariable analyses of the impact on well-being of two-year caregiving transitions (caregiving entry and caregiving exit, or continued caring) were conducted separately for spousal/child carers and carers of other family/non-relatives.
Results: Compared to non-caregiving, entry into spousal/child caregiving was associated with decline in quality of life (B = −1.60, p < .01) whereas entry into caregiving involving other kin relations increased life satisfaction (B = 1.02, p < .01) and lowered depression symptoms (B = −0.26, p < .05). Contrary to expectations, caregiving exit was related to increased depression in both spousal/child (B = 0.44, p < .01) and non-spousal/child (B = 0.25, p < .05) carers. Continued spousal/child caregiving was also related to decline in quality of life (B = −1.24, p < .05). Other associations were suggestive but non-significant.
Conclusion: The emotional impact of different caregiving transitions in later life differs across kin relationships; notably, spousal and child carers' well-being was consistently compromised at every stage of their caregiving career over the two-year study period.