BACKGROUND: Informal care currently lies at the heart of the debate on welfare policies since demands for such care are increasing and the future availability of informal caregivers is uncertain.
OBJECTIVE: To analyze the distribution of the burden of informal care between men and women and its consequences on health and quality of life.
METHODS: Data from Spain and other neighboring countries obtained from several bibliographic databases, publications, and official reports were gathered. In addition, the results of a home survey conducted by the authors on 1.000 male and female informal caregivers in Andalusia (Spain) were used.
RESULTS: The studies reviewed demonstrate that women are the main providers of informal care in Spain. Most informal carers are women with a low educational level, without employment and from a low social class. The negative impact of caregiving was noted by a large proportion of carers, especially financial consequences and loss of employment and time. Informal caregiving also has a considerable impact on health, especially on psychological health, and is associated with high levels of burden.
CONCLUSIONS: The present study demonstrates the need to reorganize health and social policies and to provide sufficient resources to meet the increasing need for informal care and to mitigate the impact and costs of caregiving on diverse aspects of women's lives. [article in Spanish]