“Around one in five adults are providing unpaid care in Sweden but their contributions are often overlooked. We looked at people aged over 50 and found that when people provide many hours of care their quality of life can be affected,” says Lawrence Sacco, the researcher at the Stress Research Institute, Department of Psychology at Stockholm University who led the study.

Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash
Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

Contributing to international debates about the impacts of caregiving

Researchers have been debating whether caregiving has negative impacts on carer wellbeing or if caregiving can provide benefits. “We aimed to contribute new evidence to this debate by showing that, even with a very large sample, it was not possible to see that providing informal care was good for carer quality of life,” explained Lawrence Sacco.

The lowest quality of life scores were reported by participants, who were providing 50 or more hours of care weekly and by participants who reported that caregiving was often burdensome. As individuals provided more hours of care each week, their quality of life progressively reduced. Quality of life also reduced for participants who reported that caregiving was often burdensome.

While the findings are stark, they also suggested that those providing less than 10 hours of care weekly were minimally or not impacted at all as were people who didn’t find their caregiving burdensome.

Gender aspects

While women and men were affected similarly by taking up or stopping caregiving, women were much more likely to make up high-risk caregiver groups providing informal care that was burdensome or many hours of help.

Policy implications

Lawrence Sacco
Lawrence Sacco, Postdoctoral fellow

“Our findings suggest that caregiver quality of life would be improved by policies, such as respite services, that would enable caregivers to reduce the burden and intensity of care they provide,” says Lawrence Sacco. “Alleviating the burdens faced by informal caregivers would reduce the number of people at risk of experiencing low quality of life. It may potentially reduce gender inequality, since it is mainly women who shoulder the burden of care”.

The article "Informal Caregiving and Quality of Life Among Older Adults: Prospective Analyses from the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH)" by Lawrence Sacco, Stefanie König, Hugo Westerlund and Loretta Platts was published online in Social Indicators Research in September 2020. doi: 10.1007/s11205-020-02473-x

Read more about SLOSH

Read more about Lawrence Sacco