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Impacts of caregiving on the health and quality of life of European carers

Posted on 29 May 2013

The impact that providing informal care to close relatives has on people's health and quality of life depends on where they live and their cultural and social background, according to research published today by the Centre for Health Economics, University of York.

Using a representative sample drawn from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (which provides data from 11 countries but not including the UK), researchers assessed whether matched individuals differed on self-assessed health and on a validated measure of quality of life. They also explored whether any regional differences exist across Europe.

Our findings suggest that formulating effective policies across Europe could be particularly challenging

Rowena Jacobs

Overall results showed a North-South divide for both self-assessed health and quality of life. Caregivers in Northern (Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands) and Central Europe (Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium) rate their own health higher than non-carers while in the South (Spain, Greece and Italy) there is no significant difference. Formal care provision explains some of the differences as carers with more formal support structures rate their health as better than non-carers.

Researchers also observed North-South differences in quality of life, with caregivers in Central Europe and the South experiencing feelings of more self-realisation and pleasure, but those in Central Europe feeling less autonomous and in control.

One of the research team, Rowena Jacobs said: “Our findings suggest that formulating effective policies across Europe could be particularly challenging and shows the importance of ensuring that policy should be tailored to match the needs of individual carers in their own geographical areas and cultural contexts.”

Notes to editors:

  • Centre for Health Economics. The quality of life of female informal caregivers: from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean Sea. CHE Research Paper 84, York: University of York.  Copies of this paper are free to download at: www.york.ac.uk/media/che/documents/papers/researchpapers/CHERP84_QoL_female_informal_caregivers.pdf
  • The authors of this report are Cinzia Di Novi, Università Ca' Foscari, Rowena Jacobs, University of York, and Matteo Migheli, Università di Torino.
  • Financial support provided by Fondazione FarmaFactoring (Milan) for this research project is gratefully acknowledged. This research collaboration emerged as a result of Cinzia Di Novi being awarded an Alan Williams Fellowship to visit the Centre for Health Economics at the University of York.
  • Papers published in the CHE Research Paper (RP) series are intended as a contribution current research. Work and ideas reported in RPs may not always represent position and as such may sometimes need to be treated as work in progress. The views expressed in RPs are solely those of the authors and should not be interpreted representing the collective views of CHE research staff or their research funders.
  • The Centre for Health Economics is a department of the University of York. The Centre’s aim is to undertake high quality research that is capable of influencing health policy decisions. The Centre is one of the largest health economics research units in the world and its research aims to influence the way decision makers think about the determinants of health and wellbeing, and the organisation and delivery of health and social care. Website: www.york.ac.uk/che
  • For more Centre for Health Economics research papers, see www.york.ac.uk/che/publications/in-house/ 
  • Further information can be obtained from Rowena Jacobs, Tel: 01904 321425; Email rowena.jacobs@york.ac.uk

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