Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Study Finds Unpaid Caregivers at Risk of Health Decline

By September 10, 2020September 14th, 2020Featured, Health of America, Health Plans & Services
image of two older adults in masks accepting a delivery of groceries from a caregiver. Text overlay reads: Due to COVID-19, 61% of Americans are worrying about, taking care of, or looking out for a friend or family member

The health impact associated with caregiving is more pronounced for Millennials than for Gen X and Baby Boomers

Philadelphia – September 10, 2020 –  New findings from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s (BCBSA) industry-first study on the health of caregivers finds that caregivers had 26 percent poorer health, as measured by the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Health Index, compared to the benchmark population due to the stress and pressure of the caregiver role. The findings come from a new BCBSA report, “The Impact of Caregiving on Mental and Physical Health,” part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series, which analyzed a data sample of caregivers based on BCBS claims data. The report represents the first time in the health care industry that claims data has been used to study the relationship between health status and caregiving.

Based on data from Blue plan members in the Philadelphia region, caregivers had higher rates of chronic conditions compared to the benchmark population of adults who met the health criteria of caregivers but did not necessarily have a spouse or child in need of caregiving. For example, rates of hypertension and obesity among caregivers were 60 percent and 41 percent higher than non-caregivers, respectively.

“Being a caregiver is often a difficult job, and the stresses and responsibilities can seriously affect our physical and mental health. This becomes even more challenging during a pandemic,” said Dr. Richard Snyder, chief medical officer and executive president at Independence Blue Cross (Independence). “Now, more than ever, we need to take care of ourselves and our loved ones by making sure they have the resources, support and infrastructure they need to stay healthy.”

The BCBSA study sample identified at least 6.7 million commercially insured BCBS members who have a spouse or child in need of caregiver support. To better understand the current state of caregivers and learn more about how to support their better health, BCBSA collaborated with ARCHANGELS, an independent national movement and platform.  ARCHANGELS is reframing how caregivers are seen, honored and supported using a combination of data and stories.

A recent survey from ARCHANGELS found that COVID-19 has increased demand for unpaid caregivers, with 61percent of Americans reporting that they are now taking care of or looking out for a friend, neighbor or family member due to the pandemic. Fifty-five percent of current caregivers would not have identified themselves as such before the pandemic. The survey also found that a greater number of Black (57 percent) and Hispanic (64 percent) caregivers are providing care for loved ones in their home than their white (37 percent) counterparts.

Independence continues to build and fund solutions that address caregivers’ distinct needs, such as telemedicine, education, care coordination and care management. Earlier this year, Independence announced a comprehensive COVID Preparedness Tool developed by Quil, the digital health joint venture of Independence Health Group and Comcast. This resource includes a section dedicated to caregiver support.

Independence also offers a wide option of mental health resources. These include practical help for stress reduction and improved sleep platform through Achieve Well Being, fitness reimbursements, nutrition counseling, and cognitive behavioral therapy for conditions like anxiety, depression, and insomnia through On to Better Health.

Compared to the benchmark population, caregivers in the Millennial age group are more likely to experience stress-related conditions. Additionally, the health impacts associated with caregiving seem to be more pronounced for this group compared to the benchmark population, with the following conditions being more prevalent:

  • 82 percent increase in hypertension
  • 60 percent increase in anxiety
  • 64 percent increase in major depression
  • 74 percent increase in obesity
  • 59 percent higher rate of hospitalization;
  • 33 percent higher rate of ER visit

The added stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic along with balancing current and new work-life responsibilities has had a particular impact on unpaid caregivers. A national survey conducted by BCBSA found that 1 in 4 unpaid caregivers are feeling more stress trying to balance work and family due to COVID-19. According to ARCHANGELS, early in the pandemic, caregivers were turning to a variety of negative coping mechanisms, including:

  • Alcohol (14 percent)
  • Medication (18 percent)
  • Food (50 percent)

To continue to address and learn more about the emerging needs of caregivers in their communities, BCBSA will host a two-day virtual forum on caregivers and millennial health on October 28 and 29.

Caregivers looking for additional support within the Southeastern Pennsylvania community can reach out to Independence to find out what programs and resources are available to them.

This is the 33rd study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series, which examined data from commercially-insured members in the BCBS claims database, alongside data and support from ARCHANGELS, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) and U.S. Census data.

All company names and brands are the property of their respective owners and used for identification purposes only and are in no way associated or affiliated with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Use of these names and brands does not imply endorsement.

About Independence Blue Cross

Independence Blue Cross is the leading health insurance organization in southeastern Pennsylvania. With our affiliates, we serve 8 million people nationwide. For more than 80 years, we have been enhancing the health and well-being of the people and communities we serve. We deliver innovative and competitively priced health care products and services; pioneer new ways to reward doctors, hospitals, and other health care professionals for coordinated, quality care; and support programs and events that promote wellness. To learn more, visit www.ibx.com. Connect with us on Facebook at facebook.com/ibx and on Twitter at @ibx. Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. 

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides health care insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health Indexsm. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit BCBS.com. We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube or follow us on Twitter.

Media Contact:
Ruth Stoolman
215-667-9537
Ruth.Stoolman@ibx.com