Traditional investigations of caregiving link it to increased caregiver morbidity and mortality, but do not disentangle the effects of providing care from those of being continuously exposed to an ailing loved one with serious health problems. We explored this possible confound in a national, longitudinal survey of elderly married individuals (N = 3,376). Results showed that spending at least 14 hr per week providing care to a spouse predicted decreased mortality for the caregiver, independently of behavioral and cognitive limitations of the care recipient (spouse), and of other demographic and health variables. These findings suggest that it may be premature to conclude that health risks for caregivers are due to providing active help. Indeed, under some circumstances, caregivers may actually benefit from providing care.
Brown, S. L., Smith, D. M., Schulz, R., Kabeto, M. U., Ubel, P. A., Poulin, M., … & Langa, K. M. (2009). Caregiving behavior is associated with decreased mortality risk. Psychological science, 20(4), 488-494.