Female caregivers are more likely than male caregivers to report poor health, especially when they perceive their roles as difficult or life changing, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2015.

Caregiving commonly results in caregivers’ poor health. And women report more burden than men in similar caregiving situations. But it’s unclear whether gender impacts the association between caregiving and poor health.

Researchers studied whether gender is associated with risk of poor health among caregivers based on caregivers’ relationships (spouse or non-spouse) with stroke patients and whether caregivers are the same or opposite gender as patients. Researchers surveyed 277 caregivers of stroke survivors after the first two months, post-stroke.

They found:

  • Caregiving for longer periods of time, difficulty of caregiving tasks and negative changes in life were highly associated with poor health status.
  • Female spousal caregivers reported strong links between difficulty of caregiving tasks and poor health status, and between negative perception of life changes due to caregiving and poor health status. The same was not true for male spousal caregivers.
  • Similar results were found for caregivers who were the opposite gender from patients.

Caregiver gender and relationship with stroke patients might help identify caregivers at high risk of poor health. More study is needed to examine the dynamics that influence caregiving relationships to individualize interventions, researchers said.