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Differences in risk factors and chronic conditions between informal (family) carers and non-carers using a population-based cross-sectional survey in South Australia

Background There is growing discussion on the impact of informal caregiving on the health status and morbidity of family carers. Evidence suggests a proportion of carers may be at risk of poor health outcomes. However, there are limited population-based studies that provide representative data on specific risk factors among carers (eg, blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking status, activity and body mass index) and major chronic conditions (eg, asthma, diabetes and arthritis). This study aimed to redress that imbalance. Method Self-reported data were from the South Australian Monitoring and Surveillance System (SAMSS), a representative cross-sectional state-wide population-based survey of 600 randomly selected persons per month. SAMSS uses computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) to monitor chronic health-related problems and risk factors and to assess health outcomes. In total, 2247 family carers were identified from 35 195 participants aged 16 years and older for the 5-year period from 2010 to 2015. Logistic regression analyses examined associations of being a carer with self-reported chronic diseases and health risk factors. In addition, the population attributable risk (PAR) of being a carer was examined for selected chronic conditions. Results The prevalence of carers was 6.4%, and peak age group for carers was 50–59 years. Adjusted ORs for chronic conditions in carers were significant for all chronic conditions examined. Although there is a high prevalence of self-reported risk factors and chronic conditions among carers compared with non-carers at the population level, PAR findings suggest that caregiving is associated with a small to moderate increased risk of having these chronic conditions. Conclusions Monitoring of carer health and morbidity particularly ‘at risk’ individuals such as female carers with asthma or diabetes remains important and provides an ongoing baseline for future surveys. To achieve this, caregiver-based studies need to become part of mainstream biomedical research at both epidemiological and clinical levels.

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Key Information

Type of Reference
Jour
Type of Work
Journal article
Publisher
BMJ Publishing Group Ltd
ISBN/ISSN
2044-6055
Publication Year
2018
Issue Number
7
Journal Titles
BMJ Open
Volume Number
8
Start Page
e020173