Mental Health Spillovers from Serious Family Illness

People are interconnected and ill-health is rarely experienced in isolation. For example, the physical and mental strain of ‘caring for’ an ill or disabled relative has been suggested to ‘spillover’, imposing a health- and quality of life-related burden on the caregiver. In addition, the illness experience of an individual is also thought to exert a psychic or emotional toll on both caregiving and non-caregiving family members, as a result of ‘caring about’ the person. While there has been extensive research on health spillovers related to informal caregiving, there is comparatively little evidence on how ill-health may impact upon non-caregiving family members. This study uses nationally representative survey data from a sample of adults resident in Ireland to estimate the relationship between serious family illness and five distinct dimensions of health, independent of caring responsibilities and a range of other factors.

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