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Assessing the Role of Selection Bias in the Protective Relationship Between Caregiving and Mortality

Caregivers have lower mortality rates than noncaregivers in population-based studies, which contradicts the caregiver-stress model and raises speculation about selection bias influencing these findings. We examined possible selection bias due to 1) sampling decisions and 2) selective participation among women (baseline mean age = 79 years) in the Caregiver-Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (Caregiver-SOF) (1999-2009), an ancillary study to the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF). Caregiver-SOF includes 1,069 SOF participants (35% caregivers) from 4 US geographical areas (Baltimore, Maryland; Minneapolis, Minnesota; the Monongahela Valley, Pennsylvania; and Portland, Oregon). Participants were identified by screening all SOF participants for caregiver status (1997-1999; n = 4,036; 23% caregivers) and rescreening a subset of caregivers and noncaregivers matched on sociodemographic factors 1-2 years later. Adjusted hazard ratios related caregiving to 10-year mortality in all women initially screened, subsamples representing key points in constructing Caregiver-SOF, and Caregiver-SOF. Caregivers had better functioning than noncaregivers at each screening. The association between caregiving and mortality among women invited to participate in Caregiver-SOF (41% died; adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) = 0.73, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.61, 0.88) was slightly more protective than that in all initially screened women (37% died; aHR = 0.83, 95% CI: 0.73, 0.95), indicating little evidence of selection bias due to sampling decisions, and was similar to that in Caregiver-SOF (39% died; aHR = 0.71, 95% CI: 0.57, 0.89), indicating no participation bias. These results add to a body of evidence that informal caregiving may impart health benefits. 

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Oxford university press
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American Journal of Epidemiology
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