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Biomedical health profiles of unpaid family carers in an urban population in South Australia

Objectives: To compare the biomedical health profile and morbidity of adult carers with non-carers. Methods: The North West Adelaide Health Study (NWAHS) is a representative population-based longitudinal biomedical cohort study of 4056 participants aged 18 years and over at Stage One. Informal (unpaid) carers were identified in Stage 3 of the project (2008–2010). Risk factors, chronic medical conditions and biomedical, health and demographic characteristics using self-report and blood measured variables were assessed. Data were collected through clinic visits, telephone interviews and self-completed questionnaires. Risk factors included blood pressure, cholesterol/lipids, body mass index (BMI), smoking and alcohol intake. Chronic medical conditions included cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, diabetes, and musculoskeletal conditions. Blood measured variables were routine haematology, biochemistry, Vitamin D, and the inflammatory biomarkers high sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP), Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha (TNFα) and Interleukin-6 (Il-6). Results: The prevalence of carers aged 40 years and over was 10.7%, n = 191. Carers aged 40 years and over were more likely to assess their health status as fair/poor and report having diabetes, arthritis, anxiety and depression. They also reported insufficient exercise and were found to have higher BMI compared with non-carers. Significant findings from blood measured variables were lower serum Vitamin D and haemoglobin. Male carers had raised diastolic blood pressure, higher blood glucose, lower haemoglobin and albumin levels and slightly elevated levels of the inflammatory biomarkers TNFα and hs-CRP. Discussion and conclusions: This study confirms informal carers had different biomedical profiles to non-carers that included some chronic physical illnesses. It identifies that both female and male carers showed a number of risk factors which need to be considered in future caregiver research, clinical guidelines and policy development regarding carer morbidity. 

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