Nav: Home

Men take care of their spouses just as well as women (new research suggests)

August 10, 2018

Men respond to their spouse's illness just as much as women do and as a result are better caregivers in later life than previous research suggests, according to a new Oxford University collaboration.

The study, published in Journals of Gerontology, Series B, is good news for our increasingly stretched adult care services, which have become more reliant on patients' family and spouses for support. Conducted with peers from the University of Pennsylvania, the research sits in contrast to previous studies on spousal caregiving, which found that female caregivers tend to be more responsive. However, the new results reveal that men are just as responsive to a partner's illness, as women.

Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study, the research carried out by Dr Langner of Oxford University* and Professor Frank Furstenberg of the University of Pennsylvania**, focused on 538 couples in Germany with an average age of 69, where one of them had developed the need for spousal care, between 2001-2015, and looked at how caregivers adjusted their hours in response to the new care need: whether directly responding to their physical needs or performing errands and housework.

The findings show that men increased their care hours as much as women did, resulting in similar levels of care once their partner became ill. These similarities were particularly pronounced when a spouse was deemed severely ill, when there was little to no difference in the level of care given.

Perhaps surprisingly, when their spouse is severely ill, men also increase the time they spend on housework and errands, more than women. However, at lower levels of spousal care need - when a spouse is only slightly unwell, women still spend more time doing housework and errands than men - because they already did more housework and errands prior to the disease onset.

There were also significant differences in levels of care given, for couples where the spouse was only unofficially seen to be 'in need of care'. However, these differences disappeared in homes where no other household help was provided, when regardless of gender, male or female, spouses stepped up to care for each other.

Dr Laura Langner, Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford and ESRC Future Research Leader, said: 'Our results suggest that gender differences in spousal caregiving in old age are not as pronounced as previously thought. Past studies had numerous limitations, which we could overcome with our data.

'We found that, unlike many previous studies on caregiving in later life - male caregivers were just as responsive towards their partner's onset of illness as female caregivers. This stands in sharp contrast the division of caregiving (i.e. childcare) and housework in mid-life. There could be a number of reasons for this, but a key factor may be that in later life many people retire and no longer have the responsibility of work, so are able to focus on other priorities - that their spouse may have been doing already'.

Discussing the potential future implications of the research for patients and services, she adds: 'People are living longer, meaning that we have an increasingly dependent aging population and we face an elderly care cost problem. Reforms are likely to continue reducing more expensive institutionalised care, and increase cheaper home care. With the gender gap in life expectancy closing, and children becoming less available to care for their parents, it is likely that many more men will be called upon to care for their partners. But, our findings at least suggest that women won't have to worry that their partners are not up to the job of caring for them, should they need to.'

The team intend to build on the findings by applying the research approach to other countries and assessing how the results compare.
-end-
Notes to editors:

For further information please contact Lanisha Butterfield, Media Relations Manager on 01865 280531 or email lanisha.butterfield@admin.ox.ac.uk

The full paper citation is Gender Differences in Spousal Caregivers' Care and Housework: Fact or Fiction? Dr. Laura A. Langner & Prof. Frank F. Furstenberg, University of Oxford, Department of Sociology & University of Pennsylvania, Department of Sociology

*Dr Langner is a Research Fellow of Nuffield College, a member of the Department of Sociology and a recipient of the Economic and Social Research Council's 'Future Research Leaders' award [ES/N001575/1].

**Professor Frank Furstenberg is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Sociology, emeritus, at the University of Pennsylvania.

University of Oxford

Related Caregivers Articles:

Depression linked to physical health decline in cancer caregivers
A new report finds that symptoms of depression are the only significant predictor of caregivers' physical health decline.
Dementia patients may die sooner if family caregivers are mentally stressed
Patients with dementia may actually die sooner if their family caregivers are mentally stressed, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.
Leisure activities lower blood pressure in Alzheimer's caregivers
Going for a walk outside, reading, listening to music--these and other enjoyable activities can reduce blood pressure for elderly caregivers of spouses with Alzheimer's disease, suggests a study in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.
Health care process a roadblock for adolescents with autism and their caregivers
Nancy Cheak-Zamora, assistant professor of health sciences at MU, says that as more children with autism enter adulthood, improved communication between providers, adolescents and caregivers is needed to help those with autism make adult health care decisions.
Abused caregivers have double chance of poor health
Nearly one in 20 middle-age women face a cumulative health impact from taking on care-giving roles after experiencing intimate partner violence according to research from the University of Queensland.
Integrating caregivers at discharge significantly cuts patient readmissions
Systematically integrating informal caregivers into the discharge planning process for elderly patients reduces hospital readmissions by a quarter, a University of Pittsburgh Health Policy Institute analysis discovered.
Male caregivers report more positives in caring for stroke survivors
Transitioning to the caregiver role for a spouse who recently had a stroke may be unsettling, particularly for men.
Hospice caregivers should be screened early to prevent depression, anxiety
A study at the University of Missouri School of Medicine found that nearly one-quarter of caregivers were moderately or severely depressed and nearly one-third had moderate or severe anxiety.
NIH funds $2 million study of caregivers of relatives with bipolar disorder
With a four-year, $2 million National Institutes of Health grant, nurse scientists at Case Western Reserve University will conduct one of the first studies to test ways family members can maintain and improve their health while caring for relatives with bipolar disorder.
Article: Clinicians should address needs of family caregivers of persons with dementia
More than 15 million family members and other unpaid caregivers provide care to persons living with dementia in the United States.

Related Caregivers Reading:

The Conscious Caregiver: A Mindful Approach to Caring for Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself
by Linda Abbit (Author)

Daily Comforts for Caregivers
by Pat Samples (Author)

The Caregiver's Toolbox: Checklists, Forms, Resources, Mobile Apps, and Straight Talk to Help You Provide Compassionate Care
by Carolyn P. Hartley (Author), Peter Wong (Author)

Caregivers: The Unsung Heroes of Our Day
by Dr. Tom Randall (Author), Dawn Randall (Author)

The Caregiver's Guide to Self Care: Help For Your Caregiving Journey
by Msn. Rn Jane Meier Hamilton (Author)

Caregiver's Survival Guide: Caring for Yourself While Caring for a Loved One
by Robert Yonover (Author), Ellie Crowe (Author)

Daily Comfort for Caregivers
by Barbour Publishing (Author)

The Caregiver
by Samuel Park (Author)

AARP Meditations for Caregivers: Practical, Emotional, and Spiritual Support for You and Your Family
by Da Capo Lifelong Books

A Caregiver's Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
by Helen Buell Whitworth "MS BSN" (Author), James Whitworth (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Hacking The Law
We have a vision of justice as blind, impartial, and fair — but in reality, the law often fails those who need it most. This hour, TED speakers explore radical ways to change the legal system. Guests include lawyer and social justice advocate Robin Steinberg, animal rights lawyer Steven Wise, political activist Brett Hennig, and lawyer and social entrepreneur Vivek Maru.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#495 Earth Science in Space
Some worlds are made of sand. Some are made of water. Some are even made of salt. In science fiction and fantasy, planet can be made of whatever you want. But what does that mean for how the planets themselves work? When in doubt, throw an asteroid at it. This is a live show recorded at the 2018 Dragon Con in Atlanta Georgia. Featuring Travor Valle, Mika McKinnon, David Moscato, Scott Harris, and moderated by our own Bethany Brookshire. Note: The sound isn't as good as we'd hoped but we love the guests and the conversation and we wanted to...