Elderly man with caregiver

Caregivers who feel they are straining under the burden of caring for a spouse with a chronic illness or disability are, themselves, at higher risk of stroke, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific Sessions.

Researchers analyzed a study of more than 6,000 caregivers and non-caregivers and compared the two groups for stroke risk. Caregivers were asked about their relationship to the care recipient and the amount of perceived physical and mental strain they associated with that care, rating their perceived strain as none, some or a lot.

They found:

  • During an average 8.5-year follow up period, 3.73 percent of caregivers 3.67 percent of non-caregivers had a stroke.
  • Caregivers as a whole did not have a notably higher risk of stroke compared to non-caregivers.
  • Strained spouse caregivers who reported high or moderate strain had a 95 percent higher risk of stroke than matched non-caregivers.

Targeted support to reduce caregiving strain, particularly among spouse caregivers, might be an important intervention, according to the authors.