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Caring-related inequalities in psychological distress in Britain during the 1990s

Hirst, M. (2003) Caring-related inequalities in psychological distress in Britain during the 1990s. Journal of Public Health Medicine, 25 (4). pp. 336-343. ISSN 0957-4832

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Background: This paper examines recent trends in inequalities in psychological distress associated with the provision of unpaid care by those who look after frail older people and younger disabled adults and children. Caring activities intensified during the 1990s, associated with increasing amounts of time devoted to the more demanding types of care and to those relationships that typically make heavy demands on the carer. Heavy involvement in caregiving is often associated with symptoms of anxiety and distress, and the intensification of care may increase rates of distress in carers relative to that in non-carers.

Methods: A secondary analysis was carried out of data drawn from the first 10 waves of the British Household Panel Survey covering 1991–2000, based on around 9000 adults interviewed personally in successive waves. Symptoms of psychological distress, including anxiety and depression, were assessed using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire.

Results: Carers present higher rates of distress than noncarers and the health gap widens as the definition of caregiving focuses on those living with the person they care for, and those devoting 20 h or more per week to their caring activities. Differences in distress rates between carers and non-carers are greater for women than for men. There is no support for the hypothesis that inequalities in distress associated with caregiving have increased over time.

Conclusion: There was no change during the 1990s in the extent of inequalities in psychological distress associated with caregiving in Britain. The need to maintain carers' emotional and mental health is as compelling as ever it was.

Item Type: Article
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > Social Policy Research Unit (York)
Depositing User: York RAE Import
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2009 11:47
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2009 11:47
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdg082
Status: Published
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Identification Number: 10.1093/pubmed/fdg082
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6846

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