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Gender Differences in Family Caregiving. Do female caregivers do more or undertake different tasks?

BACKGROUND: Two out of three family caregivers are female. However, current trends show that men are more likely to undertake caregiving duties, yet female caregivers report a higher burden. This paper analyzed data from long-term family caregivers to determine whether, under similar circumstances, gender differences in caregiving persist. We examined whether the observed gender gap affects caregivers' satisfaction with their health and quality of life.

METHODS: We analyze cross-sectional data from family caregivers of persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) in Switzerland. The data provides comprehensive information about the time and type of weekly tasks family caregivers undertake. To determine differences in caregiving related to gender, we balanced the characteristics of the caregiver and the cared-for person using a propensity score kernel matching. With the balanced sample, we estimated how the observed differences in caregiving varied across cohorts using a Poisson regression.

RESULTS: Under similar circumstances, male and female caregivers invest similar time in caregiving. This result holds for 21 caregiving tasks, except for household chores, where women spent, on average, four more hours per week than male caregivers. Despite these differences, female caregivers report a quality of life and satisfaction with their health that is similar to that of male caregivers.

CONCLUSION: Gender differences in caregiving narrow over time, except for household chores, where female caregivers continue to spend significantly more hours than male caregivers. Measures designed for family caregivers must consider these gender differences, as the support needs of female caregivers can differ greatly from those of male caregivers.

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