Older Australians who hold religious beliefs are around 30 per cent more likely to take on a role as carer, often for a spouse or partner, a study has found.
People who engage in volunteer activities are also more likely to be informal carers, according to a study published in the Australasian Journal on Ageing which explores factors associated with informal care provision by older Australians.
It found those who are engaged in volunteer and religious activities are 27.6 per cent and 33.8 per cent respectively more likely to provide informal care than their counterparts who are not engaged in these activities.
The researchers concluded that “personal values for social responsibility and role responsibility are significant predictors of informal care provision by older Australians”.
Cares providing assistance up to 30 hours a week
Co-author Professor Kaarin Anstey of the University of NSW said an ageing population means more older Australians are take on caring responsibilities.
Prof Anstey said the findings that older adults who volunteer or are religious are more likely to take informal care giving roles could be attributed to altruism.
“Some of these carers are providing 30 or more hours per week over many years,” she said.
“An interpretation of the findings is that older informal caregivers are more likely to volunteer and attend religious activities, and hence, it appears that they are more altruistic.”
Programs needed to support carers
The number of Australians aged 65 and above who provide informal care to others has increased from 579,700 in 2012 to 618,000 in 2015, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The value of this informal care was estimated to be around $15 billion in 2015.
Prof Anstey said older informal caregivers contribute greatly to the Australian care delivery system and these caregivers should be supported.
“To improve the sustainability of informal care provision by older Australian adults, it’s important to develop policies and programs to support older informal caregivers to relieve their burden.”
Marital status is a significant factor associated with informal care provision, Prof Anstey said.
“In this study, more than half of the primary caregivers were partners to their care recipients.
“Within the scope of family relationships, many informal caregivers believe that caring for their immediate family members is their personal responsibility.”
More research required
Prof Anstey said the study focused on two Australian cities only and more research needs to be done using nationwide data.
“Caution needs to be taken when expanding the results to represent the Australian population as a whole,” the researchers concluded in the paper titled: Longitudinal study of factors associated with informal care provision: Evidence from older Australians.