BRFSS 2015-2017: Exploring the Burden of Caring For Others
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Recognizing the growing public health need for informal care, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) commissioned an expert panel to develop a “caregiver module” for the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the CDC’s annual health survey. The new module was piloted in 2005 (U.S. CDC 2007), and in the decade since, the BRFSS survey has been an important resource for understanding the impact of the burden of caring for others on the health and well-being of those providing informal care in the United States. However, the core survey has not included “caregiving” questions since the significant redesign of the BRFSS random selection process in 2011. In 2015, CDC released an updated Caregiver Module and by 2017 forty-five states had included care partner questions in one or more annual surveys. As states typically survey a subset of participants when implementing optional modules, the state-level data sets are relatively small, limiting analysis. Pooling available data and combining that data with the demographic and health data from the core survey provides an important new opportunity to test if the burden of care is influenced more strongly by the underlying reason for care or by the amount and duration of care, or whether all are instrumental in influencing or predicting burden. The purpose of this research was to test how these care characteristics and sociodemographic factors influence care burden as little comparative research exists. A self-reported measure of general health was used as the dependent variable to represent care partner burden. These data suggest that providing care for 40 or more hours per week and over longer periods of time are significant factors and are more strongly associated with care partner poor health than sociodemographic factors such as age. These findings provide additional insight into this national public health challenge.