Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Mediation Analysis of Leisure, Perceived Stress, and Quality of Life in Informal Caregivers

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Mediation Analysis of Leisure, Perceived Stress, and Quality of Life in Informal Caregivers

Article excerpt

Approximately 48.9 million individuals (21% of the adult U.S. population) are involved in some form of unpaid care for an adult relative or loved one who is ill, disabled, or aged (National Alliance of Caregiving and The American Association of Retired Persons, 2009 [NAC/AARP]). With the projection of adults aged 65 and older (40.2 million) estimated to double by 2050 (Administration on Aging, 2009 [AoA]), the number of these informal caregivers is likely to grow exponentially. A concern of this projection is that many informal caregivers currently experience negative health consequences as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. In fact, many caregivers have identified their own health as fair to poor (e.g., AoA, 2009; Collins et al., 1999; Lee, Colditz, Berkman, & Kawachi, 2003). In addition, research shows that caregivers often experience high levels of perceived stress, increased social isolation, compromised quality of life, and have reported loss of leisure as a significant negative consequence of caregiving (e.g., Bedini & Gladwell, 2006; Dunn & Strain, 2001; McCullagh, Brigstocke, Donaldson, & Kalra, 2005; NAC/AARP, 2009; National Family Caregivers Association, 1998; Ory, Hoffman, Yee, Tennstedt, & Schulz, 1999; Vitaliano, Young, & Zhang, 2004).

The type of chronic stress encountered in caregiving can take as many as 10 years off the life of a caregiver (Epel et al., 2004) and can compromise one's immune system for up to three years after the caregiving responsibilities end, thus increasing chances of developing a chronic illness themselves at more than twice the rate of non-caregivers (Kielcot-Glaser & Glaser, 2002). Unfortunately, caregivers often demonstrate reduced ability to cope with caregiving burden (Mannell, Salmoni, & Martin, 2002; Ory et al., 1999) and subsequently have decreased health status (e.g., King, Baumann, O'Sullivan, Wilcox, & Castro, 2002; Shanks-McElroy & Strobino, 2001) and reduced or abandoned meaningful leisure participation (e.g., Bedini & Phoenix, 2004; Kesselring et al., 2001; Loucks-Atkinson, Kleiber, & Williamson, 2006; Rogers, 2001; Shanks-McElroy & Strobino, 2001).

Although copious research exists linking participation in leisure activities to improved health, decreased depression, increased self-esteem, reduced stress, decreased risk of dementia, and greater quality of life in many populations (e.g., Beaumont & Kenealy, 2004; Gabriel & Bowling, 2004; Loucks-Atkinson et al., 2006; Mannell et al., 2002; Verghese et al., 2003; Waters & Moore, 2002), there is an absence of research that specifically addresses the use of leisure as a mechanism for improving the well-being of caregivers. This gap in knowledge is an important problem because until a better understanding of the relationship between leisure and the well-being of caregivers is obtained, it is unlikely that programs, policies, and strategies will be developed that effectively utilize leisure as a mechanism to improve the mental and physical health of informal caregivers.

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of three components of leisure with the health and well-being of family caregivers. The specific aims of this study were to (a) examine the relationships among leisure participation, satisfaction with time for leisure, and satisfaction with quality of the leisure experience, perceived stress, and quality of life, and (b) test whether perceived stress mediated the effect of these leisure constructs on the quality of life of family caregivers.


Caregiver Profile

According to a study by the NAC/AARP (2009), a typical informal/family caregiver is female (66%), 48 years old, White (72%), married or living with a partner (63%), has some college education (68%), and lives with or near the people for whom they care (72%). In addition, these data identified that caregivers of adults spent approximately 19 hours a week providing care. …

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