Is Caregiving a Risk Factor for Illness?

Peter P. Vitaliano, Heather M Young, Jianping Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


This article focuses on the physical health of persons who provide care to family members and friends with dementia. Such caregivers are under extended chronic stress because of the particular demands that this illness places on them. Caregiver research has made important contributions in two areas of health psychology. First, this research has increased understanding of the impact of chronic illness in families. Second, it has explored the complex relationships between stress and human responses (psychological and physiological) in the context of aging, using caregiving as a prototypic chronic Stressor. This article discusses the relationship between distress, health habits, physiological changes, and, ultimately, health risks. There is evidence for greater health risks in caregivers than in noncaregivers. In addition, vulnerabilities and resources influence the relationship between caregiver Stressors and health. One of the greatest methodological challenges of research on caregiver health is that the studies occur under natural conditions, so that it is not possible to randomly assign people to be caregivers and then observe changes in their health. Careful designs are required to infer the reasons for health risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-16
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Caregiving
  • Dementia
  • Physical health
  • Risk
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Is Caregiving a Risk Factor for Illness?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this