Profile of informal rural Appalachian caregivers of patients with chronic illnesses

Jennifer L. Smith, Misook L. Chung, Jennifer L. Miller, Martha Biddle, Donna L. Schuman, Mary Kay Rayens, Terry A. Lennie, Brittany Smalls, Muna Hammash, Gia Mudd-Martin, Debra K. Moser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Caring for a family member with chronic illness increases cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk by 82%, and rurality imparts additional CVD disparities. The purpose of this study was to describe a profile of rural caregivers of patients with chronic illnesses to determine the prevalence of CVD risk factors, and psychosocial and socioeconomic burden, as well as to compare these variables across gender. Methods: Baseline data from a trial of CVD risk reduction in rural caregivers of patients with chronic illnesses were used. We measured depression and anxiety with the PHQ-9 and Brief Symptom Inventory; social, economic, and environmental factors using the MOS-Social Support and Economic and Environmental surveys; body mass index (BMI); blood pressure (BP); and lipid profile. Results: Of 181 caregivers (age 53±14 years, 80% female), 69% were married; 88% were caring for a family member, including 46% caring for a spouse and 18% for a parent. A total of 51% were anxious, 25% depressed, and 25% reported lack of social support. Most (51%) caregivers had one or more types of CVD; and 49% were smokers. By examination, 76% had elevated BP; 35% had total cholesterol >200; 50% low-density lipoprotein >100; 56% triglycerides >150; and 79% high-density lipoprotein <60. Based on BMI, 91.5% were overweight or obese. Gender comparisons revealed that women reported higher levels of depressive symptoms than men. Conclusions: Rural caregivers, regardless of gender, are at increased risk of CVD and struggle with factors that make caregiving burdensome and contribute to their own poor cardiac health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-250
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Rural Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
: This work was supported by the NIH/NINR R01 NR016824 Rural Intervention for Caregiver's Heart Health (Multi‐PI, D. Moser and M. Chung) and the National Institutes of Health T32HL091812. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Funding

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 National Rural Health Association

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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