Employees caring for family members might be at heightened risk of major chronic diseases, including diabetes, cholesterol and hypertension, according to new research.
A survey of 17,097 employees of a U.S. manufacturer by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh showed that nearly 12 percent of workers cared for an older person and, generally, those employees reported poorer health and more chronic disease than non-caregivers.
The study was contracted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving.
Caregivers in the study collectively reported health care costs that were, on average, 8 percent higher than non-caregivers. Excess medical costs were nearly 11 percent for blue-collar caregivers and over 18 percent for male caregivers. Female employees with elder care responsibilities reported more stress at home than non-caregivers in every age group.
Employed caregivers find it more difficult than non-caregivers to take care of their own health and to participate in preventive health screenings, the findings showed. Women caregivers were less likely to report getting annual mammograms than non-caregivers. Employed caregivers of all ages and gender defer preventive health screenings.
While young employees generally have low health care costs, young caregivers (ages 18 to 39) demonstrated significantly higher rates of cholesterol, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, kidney disease and heart disease compared to non-caregivers of the same age.
“Employers can serve the best interests of their employees as well as those of their corporation by anticipating and responding to the challenges of eldercare for their employees,” the researchers concluded.
Rita Zeidner is a senior writer for HR Magazine.
MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs, February 2010
Treat Caregiving Employees with Care, HR Magazine, November 2009