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Men Just as Reliable as Women in Providing Care

MEN are better at caring for their spouse when they become ill in old age than previously thought, researchers from the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, have found. The study, which focussed on elderly couples in Germany, suggests that men can be relied upon to help alleviate pressures on social care systems.

Reducing Care Costs

Dr Laura Lagner, University of Oxford, commented: “People are living longer, meaning that we have an increasingly dependent ageing population and we face an elderly care cost problem. Reforms are likely to continue reducing more expensive institutionalised care and increase cheaper home care. With the gender gap in life expectancy closing, and children becoming less available to care for their parents, it is likely that many more men will be called upon to care for their partners. But, our findings at least suggest that women won’t have to worry that their partners are not up to the job of caring for them, should they need to.”

Similar to Women

The team discovered that men provided similar levels of care to their spouse when they became ill, as women did for their spouses, particularly when the illness was severe. This appeared to be due to their willingness to increase the number of hours they spent giving care as much as the women did. Men also increased the level of housework and errands they did to a greater extent than women when their partner was severely ill, although women were observed to spend more time undertaking such tasks than men when their partners were only slightly ill.

These findings are in stark contrast to previous research on caregiving in later life and also the division of caregiving responsibilities, especially in regard to childcare, among couples during midlife. “There could be a number of reasons for this, but a key factor may be that in later life many people retire and no longer have the responsibility of work, so are able to focus on other priorities that their spouse may have been doing already,” added Dr Lagner.

Further Studies

In the study, the team observed 538 couples in Germany with an average age of 69 years, where one required spousal care between 2001 and 2015. They now plan to apply this research approach to other countries to see if similar results occur.

 

James Coker, Reporter

For the source and further information about the study, click here.