Caring can be a rewarding and fulfilling role, but it can also have negative consequences. It can take a toll on a caregiver’s physical, emotional and social well-being. It can also make it harder for a caregiver to pursue paid work or a career, as caring takes up a lot of time and resources.
Caregivers are a high-risk group for poor health. They are more likely to have physical and mental health conditions, including obesity, chronic disease, and depression. They are also more likely to have comorbidities such as hypertension and tobacco use disorder. They have more stress-related medical appointments, are less likely to take preventive health care measures, and are more likely to suffer from a poorer quality of life.
There is a growing understanding of the impact of caring on a person’s mental health and wellbeing. The burden of caring can be a source of stress and a contributing factor in mental illness, including major depressive disorder (MDD) and anxiety. It can also have negative effects on the ability to enjoy social activities, engage in recreation or leisure, or find meaning and purpose in one’s life.
In addition to the physical and psychosocial burden associated with caring, it can lead to financial problems and social isolation. Many people who care for others are on low incomes and find it difficult to cover the extra costs of caring, such as heating, laundry, medication, disability aids, transportation and health care.
They are also more likely to be unemployed, which can affect their ability to access social support. It can also be a significant strain on family relationships, especially when other family members are caring for other relatives or friends who need assistance.
A large number of studies have found that caring can have positive effects on a caregiver’s mental health, ranging from enhancing self-esteem and helping them cope with stress to fostering spiritual beliefs or adaptive coping mechanisms in the face of adversity. Moreover, many family caregivers report a sense of fulfillment and a feeling of achieving something meaningful through their caring responsibilities.
The impact of caregiving can be particularly negative for those who provide informal care for others, such as family members with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (AD). These individuals often have limited income and are unable to obtain the medical and social services they need to manage their loved one’s condition. They are at risk of developing serious and sometimes permanent health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, chronic disease, and depression.
These results suggest that formal healthcare interventions may be required to address the effects of informal care on caregivers and their loved ones. These interventions could provide supportive and instrumental care, such as ensuring that the patient is safe while the caregiver provides personal care and accessing community support services to improve their physical and mental health.
These findings are consistent with previous research in Japan and across the world, suggesting that this burden is global. Although a variety of factors may be involved in the decision to provide informal care, it is critical to identify and support these caregivers in order to alleviate their burden.