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Time Effects of Informal Caregiving on Cognitive Function and Well-Being: Evidence From ELSA

Background and Objectives: As informal caregiving becomes prevalent, its consequences for caregivers' cognitive and socioemotional functioning gain more importance for society. There are inconsistent findings regarding the direction of the impact of caregiving-whether caregiving maintains or compromises functioning-and the impact of time-whether the effects accumulate or are stable. In this study, we elucidated 3 time effects of caregiving-concurrent, cumulative, and lagged effects-on cognitive and socioemotional functioning. Research Design and Methods: We used data from Wave 1 (2002–2003) to Wave 8 (2016–2017) in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and latent growth curve models with the time-varying predictor to investigate 3 time effects of caregiving on cognitive function (memory and executive function) and well-being (life satisfaction and quality of life). Results: Over and beyond age effects, current caregiving (concurrent effect) was related to worse well-being and better delayed recall. Little robust cumulative effect was found on cognition and well-being. In addition, there were significant and differential lagged effects of caregiving after controlling for concurrent and cumulative effects; that is, caregiving was related to worse well-being and better memory functioning 2–4 years later. Discussion and Implications: The differential concurrent and lagged effects of caregiving on cognitive and socioemotional functioning suggest separate mechanisms for different domains of functioning. The nonsignificant cumulative effects but significant lagged effects imply that even one-time caregiving has long-term (2–4 years) consequences for the caregiver's future functioning, and the mechanism of long-term caregiving effects may be more qualitative than quantitative.

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Type of Reference
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Journal article
Oxford university press
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The Gerontologist
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