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Income-based inequalities in caregiving time and depressive symptoms among older family caregivers under the Japanese long-term care insurance system: a cross-sectional analysis

AIM: Long-term care systems may alleviate caregiver burdens, particularly for those with fewer resources. However, it remains unclear whether socioeconomic disparity in caregiver burdens exists under a public, universal long-term care insurance (LTCI) system. This study examined income-based inequalities in caregiving time and depressive symptoms in Japanese older family caregivers. We further compared inequality in depressive symptoms with that of non-caregivers to evaluate whether family caregiving exacerbates this disparity. METHODS: Data were obtained from a cross-sectional, nationwide survey conducted by the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study in 2013. Participants were functionally independent older adults aged >=65 years (N = 21,584). Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Geriatrics Depression Scale (GDS); caregiving hours per week, household income, and other covariates were also assessed. RESULTS; Family caregivers occupied 8.3 per cent of the total. A Poisson regression model revealed that caregivers in lower income groups (compared to those in the highest) were 1.32 to 1.95 and 1.63 to 2.68 times more likely to engage in >=36 and >=72 hours/week of caregiving, respectively. As for the GDS (>=5), an excess risk was found in the caregivers in lower (compared to higher) income groups (adjusted prevalence ratio: 1.57-3.10). However, an interaction effect of income by caregiving role indicated no significant difference in inequality between caregivers and non-caregivers (p = .603). The excess risk for GDS (>=5) in the caregivers compared to non-caregivers was observed across income groups. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings revealed a possible disparity in family caregivers under the public LTCI system. Further studies should examine factors associated with longer caregiving hours in lower income households. Our findings also suggest the necessity for more efforts to alleviate depressive symptoms in family caregivers under the LTCI system regardless of income level, rather than exclusively supporting those with a low income. 

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Key Information

Type of Reference
Jour
Type of Work
Journal article
Publisher
Public Library of Science
ISBN/ISSN
1932-6203
Publication Year
2018
Issue Number
3
Journal Titles
Plos One
Volume Number
13
Start Page
e0194919