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Caring Alone? Social Capital and the Mental Health of Caregivers

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  • Lars Thiel

Abstract

This study analyzes the role of social capital in buffering the negative relationship between informal-care provision and mental health. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) and fixed-effect regression models, we show that those individuals who socialize more frequently enjoy better mental health. We also find that stronger social ties moderate the negative association between caregiving and mental well-being. The protective role of social capital appears to be particularly strong for caregivers with high time commitments or those who regularly perform voluntary work. The moderating role of social activities can neither be explained by the caregiver's observed characteristics correlated with social capital, nor by features of the caregiving process. However, the results might be driven by insuficient overlap in covariates between carers and non-carers, and the simultaneity between caring decisions and social activities. We relate our results to recent policy initiatives that aim to improve the carer's well-being. Utilization of caregiver-support services is still rather low. Our findings suggest that caregivers may prefer informal support provided by family, friends, or neighbors to public caregiver benefits. To corroborate this hypothesis, further research regarding the (causal) buffering effects of social capital in the context of informal care is needed.

Suggested Citation

  • Lars Thiel, 2016. "Caring Alone? Social Capital and the Mental Health of Caregivers," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 860, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp860
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Informal care; social capital; mental health;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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