Caregiving and Healthy Aging Research

Our research group is conducting epidemiologic studies on how psychosocial factors influence physical health and functioning in community-dwelling older adults, hip fracture patients, and adults at-risk of arthritis.

Our work addresses two broad questions:

    • How does caregiving to an impaired friend or relative affect aging and health outcomes?
    • How do positive affect and optimism influence functioning and physical health in elderly adults?

    Our caregiver research includes several NIH-funded prospective cohort studies on the health effects of caregiving, and the physiological pathways that may link caregiving stress to adverse health outcomes (i.e., higher mortality rates, poorer immune functioning) that have been observed in prior studies. Our findings from Caregiver SOF suggest that the relationship between caregiving, aging and health is more complex, and that older women may derive health benefits from caregiving. In The Health Pathways Study, we are utilizing biomarkers to uncover the physiological pathways that may link to metabolic syndrome and underlie the relationships between caregiving activities, caregiving-related stress, physiological functioning, and health outcomes. We are also conducting a randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for caregivers, The Stress Reduction for Caregivers Study.

    Through the data we have collected from each of these studies, we are exploring the impact of positive affect and optimism on functional decline, stress, and other health outcomes in older adults. We are interested in how physiological mechanisms may mediate these relationships.