Workers Who Care: Unpaid Care for Parents, Employment and Well-Being among Older Adults across Europe

Elisa Labbas , Lund University
Maria Stanfors, Lund University

Given population ageing and emphasis on in-home care across Europe, more workers face competing demands of employment and providing unpaid care to elderly relatives. Studies commonly find a negative relationship between intensive caregiving and time spent in paid work, as well as a negative impact on caregivers’ health and well-being. Yet, empirical evidence around causal mechanisms and gendered patterns has been mixed. We examine the relationship of unpaid care for elderly parents and the well-being of working-age Europeans in a country comparative perspective, focusing on the role of employment as a moderating factor. Our sample from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) 2004-2015 consists of 10,591 men and women aged 50 to 64. Preliminary estimates for Sweden (n=1,067) suggest that while caregiving is common and not associated with reduced employment, it has a gendered impact on mental health. For women, caregiving has no effect but employment is associated with a reduced risk of clinically significant depression. For men, both non-intensive and intensive caregiving are associated with an elevated risk of experiencing clinically significant depression, irrespective of employment status. Employed individuals report, on average, higher levels of self-rated well-being, but caregiving is not related to this outcome. The results highlight a gendered pattern, suggesting that implications for men are more important than previously thought and that employment may have a protective effect on the mental health of women who are caregivers. Forthcoming work presents and interprets results for Sweden in contrast with selected European countries.

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 Presented in Session 52. Mental Health of Older People