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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2007 Jun 1;56(21):529-32.

Characteristics and health of caregivers and care recipients--North Carolina, 2005.


Approximately 53.4 million caregivers in the United States provide an estimated $257-$389 billion worth of unpaid care annually to persons of all ages with disabilities and chronic illness. The health of caregivers and their ability to continue their contributions have emerged as public health concerns. A 2004 study indicated that those persons who provided the most intense caregiving reported substantially poorer health than noncaregivers or those with modest caregiving responsibilities. A Healthy People 2010 objective calls for public health surveillance and health promotion programs for persons with disabilities and caregivers in every state and the District of Columbia (objective 6-13). Although limited caregiver surveys have provided data at the national level, data have not been available at the state level to characterize the health of caregivers or health effects of caregiving. Such information could be useful to states for planning and policy decisions and the development and implementation of interventions to promote caregivers' health. To analyze the characteristics and health of caregivers and care recipients and to assess the effects of caregiving, data were analyzed from a caregiver module that was piloted in North Carolina in the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which determined that caregivers provided an average of 20.1 hours of care per week, and 72.2% of caregivers lived in the same household as (24.9%) or within 20 minutes of (47.3%) the care recipient. Caregivers were more likely to be women (59.5%) than men and averaged more days when their mental health was not good when compared with noncaregivers (4.3 days versus 3.0 days, of the preceding 30 days). Public health initiatives should be designed to promote the health and well-being of both care recipients and caregivers.

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