NYMC Faculty Publications

Prevalence and Characteristics of Subjective Cognitive Decline Among Unpaid Caregivers Aged ≥45 Years - 22 States, 2015-2019

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MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report

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Health Policy and Management


Approximately 20% of U.S. adults are unpaid caregivers (caregivers) (1) who provide support to a family member or friend with a health condition or disability. Although there are benefits to caregiving, it can negatively affect caregivers' physical and mental health (2-4). Much of the assistance caregivers provide, such as administering medications or financial management, relies on cognitive ability, but little is known about caregivers' cognitive functioning. Subjective cognitive decline (SCD), the self-reported experience of worsening or more frequent confusion or memory loss over the past year (5), could affect caregivers' risk for adverse health outcomes and affect the quality of care they provide. CDC analyzed SCD among caregivers aged ≥45 years through a cross-sectional analysis of data from 22 states in the 2015-2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Among adults aged ≥45 years, SCD was reported by 12.6% of caregivers who provided care to a family member or friend with a health condition or disability in the past 30 days compared with 10.2% of noncaregivers (p<0.001). Caregivers with SCD were more likely to be employed, men, aged 45-64 years, and have chronic health conditions than were noncaregivers with SCD. Caregivers with SCD were more likely to report frequent mental distress, a history of depression, and frequent activity limitations than were caregivers without SCD. SCD among caregivers could adversely affect the quality of care provided to care recipients. Understanding caregivers' cognitive health and the types of care provided is critical to maintaining the health, well-being, and independence of the caregiving dyad. Health care professionals can support patients and their patients' caregivers by increasing awareness among caregivers of the need to monitor their own health. The health care team can work with caregivers to identify potential treatments and access supports that might help them in their caregiving role and compensate for SCD.