This study describes the mental health status, disability, physical health, and mental health service utilization of informal care-givers under the age of 65 in the province of Ontario. The study analyzed data collected in the 1991 province-wide, population-based mental health supplement to the Ontario Health Survey. Diagnoses from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition, revised, were generated on the basis of a structured diagnostic interview. Caregivers and non caregivers are compared here on past-year prevalence of psychiatric disorder, physical illness, disability, and utilization of mental health services. The possible confounding effects of age, sex, employment status, and economic disadvantage are explored.
Informal caregivers (n = 1219) constituted 15.0% of the sample. Caregivers had higher rates of affective (6.3% vs 4.2%) and anxiety (17.5% vs 10.9%) disorders than noncaregivers and used health services for mental health problems at nearly twice the rate.
Documentation of the prevalence of caregiving and the increased prevalence of psychiatric disorders, disability, and service utilization among caregivers is of critical importance as governments continue to move toward community-based care. To accomplish this goal, the needs of caregivers must be acknowledged and met by the establishment of appropriate and readily accessible support services.