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Johns Hopkins Health - Caregivers May Live Longer

Spring 2014
Issue No. 24

Caregivers May Live Longer

Date: April 1, 2014

caregiving

Taking on the responsibility of caring for a loved one who is disabled or chronically ill can be stressful and difficult. But it also may be life-prolonging for the caregiver, according to a new study led by David Roth, Ph.D., director of the Center on Aging and Health at Johns Hopkins. Roth analyzed data from a long-range national study of stroke risk factors, and he found that caregivers lived nine months longer over a six-year period, on average, than a matched sample of noncaregivers.

The results were “somewhat surprising,” he says, but not a complete contradiction to perceived wisdom. One reason for added longevity may be that, within a family, the healthiest person signs on for the role of caregiver. Another may be that helping others is in itself beneficial to the helper.

The challenge now is providing a more balanced view of caregiving and recognizing that caring for a disabled family member is usually not bad for your health. “Providing care to a family member with a chronic illness or disability can be stressful, but this stress is not associated with an increased risk of death in most cases,” Roth says. “Caregiving is also a positive and healthy activity in many families, and it appears to be associated with modest survival benefits for the caregivers.”

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