Caring for Mom and Neglecting Yourself? The Health Effects of Caring for an Elderly Parent

N.B. Coe, C.H. Van Houtven

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We examine the physical and mental health effects of providing care to an elderly mother on the adult child caregiver. We address the endogeneity of the selection in and out of caregiving using an instrumental variable approach, and carefully control for baseline health and work status of the adult child using fixed effects and Arellano-Bond estimation techniques. Continued caregiving over time increases depressive symptoms for married women and married men. In addition, the increase in depressive symptoms is persistent for married men. Depressive symptoms for single men and women are not affected by continued caregiving. There is a small protective effect on the likelihood (10%) of having any heart conditions among married women who continue caregiving. Robustness checks confirm that the increase in depressive symptoms and decrease in likelihood of heart conditions can be directly attributable to caregiving behavior, and not due to a direct effect of the death of the mother. The initial onset of caregiving, by contrast, has no immediate effects on physical or mental health for any subgroup of caregivers.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
Number of pages42
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • CES-D
  • depressive symptoms
  • heart conditions
  • elderly parents
  • informal care


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