Featured Thesis: Emotional support, health, and burden among caregivers of people with neurological conditions

This 2019 M.A. thesis in sociology focuses on stress, health and the caregiver role in a multi-factored way.

Emotional support, health, and burden among caregivers of people with neurological conditions

by James Watkins

Abstract:

From 2011 to 2031, the Canadian population living with neurological conditions is expected to double, but the population able to give informal care is not keeping pace, leading to a greater care burden. One element of this increasing care burden is emotional care. However, the effects of giving emotional care on caregiver health outcomes have not been sufficiently explored in the caregiving literature, where the majority of studies focus on instrumental forms of care, or fail to differentiate between different aspects of caregiving. This problem is further complicated by findings from other contexts which indicate that emotional supporting and helping others actually benefits the supporter or helper. Informed by the stress process and other ancillary theories, I use data from the 2012 General Social Survey to test several hypotheses which may help us understand the mental health, functional health, and caregiver burden of caregivers of persons with neurological conditions who emotionally support their care receivers, and of caregivers who are the sole provider of emotional support. The results suggest that emotionally supporting a care receiver with a neurological condition is detrimental to caregiver mental health, and that being the sole emotional supporter is detrimental to caregiver mental health, functional health, and experience of burden. A significant interaction effect also exists between emotional supporting and caregiver gender for functional health. These findings have important implications for future research, for intervention planners, and for caregivers themselves.

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