Caregivers’ Health Toll Costly for Employers

January 29, 2010 ( new study asserts that caregivers for the elderly suffer more health problems like diabetes or hypertension that can cost employers an additional 8% or $13.4 billion annually to treat.

A MetLife Mature Market Institute news release about its study says younger caregivers (ages 18 to 39) cost their employers 11% more for health care than non-caregivers, while male caregivers cost an additional 18%. 

Eldercare may also be closely associated with high-risk behaviors like smoking and alcohol consumption, MetLife says.

MetLife says the study also found:

  • Younger caregivers demonstrated significantly higher rates of unhealthy cholesterol levels, hypertension, COPD, depression, kidney disease, and heart disease in comparison to non-caregivers of the same age.
  • Employed caregivers find it more difficult than non-caregivers to take care of their health or participate in preventive health screenings.  For example, women caregivers were less likely to report annual mammograms than non-caregivers.
  • Overall, 10% of caregivers missed at least one day of work over the prior two weeks because of health issues compared to 9% of non-caregivers.  Differences were mostly driven by the much higher absenteeism among younger caregiving employees.

“While this news may be distressing, our research points out that coordination of eldercare services and wellness initiatives may open new avenues of innovation to benefit both employees and employers,” says Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in the news release.  “Employers can provide support to their employees and, at the same time, reduce their health care costs by anticipating and responding to the challenges of eldercare.”

The report was produced with the National Alliance for Caregiving in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Aging.  It was drawn from an analysis of 17,000 employees of a major multinational U.S. corporation who completed health risk assessment questionnaires (HRA).  Twelve percent were caregivers for an older person.

More information about the MetLife institute is available here.