Predictors of unhealthy physical and mental days among informal cancer caregivers: results from the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey

Steven S. Coughlin, Biplab Datta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Patients with cancer and cancer survivors commonly rely upon family members and friends to act as caregivers to help manage cancer treatment and the late effects of that treatment. Informal caregivers provide a variety of supportive functions for cancer patients, including emotional, informational, and functional support, and practical assistance with skilled care activities. Objective: We examined predictors of unhealthy physical and mental days among informal cancer caregivers. Unhealthy days are an estimate of the overall number of days during the previous 30 days when the respondent felt that either his or her physical or mental health was not good. Methods: Data were used from the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a cross-sectional, population-based study. The participants were adults aged ≥ 18 years who provided regular care or assistance to a friend or family member who had cancer in the past 30 days. Results: On average, caregivers who had a household income of less than $25,000 per year reported more (p < 0.05) unhealthy physical and mental days (during the last 30 days). Average reported number of mental unhealthy days was the highest for those who provided care for 2 or more years and 40 or more hours per week. Caregivers of Hispanic ethnicity had a greater risk of reporting unhealthy physical and mental days among those who provided care for 2 or more years. Among those who were providing care for 40 + h a week, caregivers from less wealthy households (income less than $50,000) were at greater risk of experiencing a larger number of unhealthy mental days. Conclusions: Informal cancer caregiving can be a stressful experience with potentially negative consequences for both psychological and physical health. Of particular concern are caregivers who are low-income or have limited financial resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Cancer
  • Family caregivers
  • Supportive care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

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