Published Papers - Abstract 234

Lee C & Gramotnev H. Transitions into and out of caregiving: Health and social characteristics of mid-age Australian women. Psychology and Health, 2007; 22(2): 193-209

Family caregiving is frequently associated with significant levels of physical, emotional and financial strain. This article examines the health effects of transitions into and out of caregiving in middle age. We conducted a secondary analysis of data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) to examine changes in caregiving status among middle-aged women over a 3-year period, and the correlates and outcomes of these changes. A total of 9,555 middle-aged Australian women were categorised according to caregiving status at two surveys 3 years apart, as Continuing (2.7%); Stopped (4.9%); Started (3.0%); and Never caregivers (89.4%). Analyses at each time point show poorer physical and emotional health, health service use, health behaviours and lower engagement in the paid workforce among all three caregiver groups, indicating that middle-aged women who are, have been, or will become family caregivers are in poorer health than women who do not have these roles. Middle-aged women in poor health tend to be selected into caregiving, probably because they are less engaged with the paid workforce. Poor health and disengagement from the paid workforce continue even when caregiving stops. Health care providers should be particularly conscious of the needs of middle-aged caregivers, who are likely to be in poor health even before they take on the role.