C Brack, S Makin, M Kynn, P Murchie


  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Aging
  • General Medicine

Abstract Introduction There is relatively little known about physical health of older people who are unpaid carers. The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) Wave 9 (2019) was used to examine the relationship between unpaid caring and health. This study contains information on frailty, caring, comorbidities and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) from 8,736 participants 50 years and over. Methods We included participants who received a nurse visit in Wave 9 (n=3,047), 21 were excluded due to missing data. Frailty was calculated using the ELSA-Frailty Index (FI). Carers were those in receipt of Carers Allowance or self-reported unpaid caring. Results 351 carers and 2675 non-carers were included. Carers were younger (64.5 (10.2) vs 66.7 (10.5), p<0.001) and more likely to be married (78.1% vs 62.8%, p<0.001). Carers had a lower median FI score (0.07 (0.04-0.14) vs 0.15 (0.12-0.21), p=0.000) however, 45/536(8%) of moderately and severely frail participants were carers. Of 966 non-frail (FI <0.12) participants: 9/246(2.6%) carers experienced difficulties with IADLs, compared to 5/720(0.69%) non-carers; 79/246(31%) of carers had impaired mobility, compared to 39/720(5%) of non-carer; and 51/246(20%) had 2+ comorbidities, compared to 17/720(2.4%) non-carers. Of 1524 mildly frail (FI>0.12-0.24) participants: 16/60(26.7%) carers experienced difficulties with IADLs, compared to 116/1464(0.69%) non-carers; 58/60(97%) of carers had impaired mobility, compared to 807/1464(55%) non-carers; and 42/60(70%) had 2+ comorbidities, compared to 607/1464(41.4%) non-carers. On frailty-adjusted multivariable analysis there was a strong association between carer status and comorbidities with Odds Ratio (OR)3.01 (95%CI 2.21-4.10); impaired mobility, OR 11.08 (95%CI7.52-16.32); and impaired IADLs, OR 5.44(95%CI3.48-8.48) Conclusions Carers are less likely to be frail but more likely to struggle with at least one IADL, experience comorbidity or mobility impairment than equivalently frail peers. This suggests that, in the over 50s, either caring contributes to impairment or the burden of care falls on the more impaired.

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