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November 29, 2021 – Nearly half or 44.4% of California’s estimated 6.7 million adult caregivers reported experiencing some level of financial stress in 2020 due to their role, according to a new study published by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR). In that same year, 13.5% of all caregivers, which refers to adults who reported providing care in the last 12 months to a family member or friend with a serious or chronic illness or disability, said they suffered from a physical or mental health problem due to caregiving.

The study used data from UCLA CHPR’s 2020 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), which is the first set of data in over a decade on this group, and found that caregivers across different demographic backgrounds were struggling financially or mentally, and that the severity also varied based on factors such as the amount of time spent caregiving per week. Researchers also note that caregivers were given little, if any, financial support for their responsibilities, citing that 1 in 4 California caregivers provided 20 or more hours of care per week. Yet only 1 in 11 caregivers received payment for any of the hours spent doing so, and often incurred out-of-pocket costs.

“Because they provide a significant portion of care for people with chronic needs and disabilities, it is vital that we assess caregivers’ financial and mental health needs in order to support the creation or expansion of policies that can alleviate any kind of burden they are experiencing,” said Sean Tan, lead author of the study and senior public administration analyst at UCLA CHPR.

Researchers outline a variety of characteristics among caregivers and care recipients, stating that a majority of caregivers in California are women (57.7%), middle age or ages 26 to 64 (67.5%) and provide care to mainly older adults ages 65 and older (64.7%). By racial and ethnic group, about 40.7% of caregivers are white, 37.4% are Latinx, 11% are Asian, 6.3% are Black or African American, 0.5% are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 0.7% are American Indian or Alaska Natives and 3.4% are two or more races.

Some of the main findings from the study include:

  • About 1 in 5 (20.9%) caregivers reported that caring for their relative or friend was somewhat to extremely financially stressful. The level of reported financial stress increased as the number of hours providing care increased.
  • Caregivers who identified as Black (28%), Asian (23.4%) or Latinx (21.9%) were more likely than those who were white (17.7%) to report that caregiving was “somewhat” to “extremely” financially stressful.
  • Caregivers who provided 30 or more hours of care per week and 20–29 hours of care per week reported the highest percentages of suffering physical or mental problems due to caregiving in the past 12 months — 21.5% and 21.1%, respectively.

The study’s authors outline several proposed policies and assembly bills which, if passed into law, could help substantially with providing sufficient income replacement and job protection, which are currently limited under California’s Paid Family Leave Act. They propose recommendations to respond to caregivers’ financial, physical and mental health needs.

“Dedicated efforts to raise awareness of paid family leave benefits in the state through employment or employer agencies, resource centers and media can be made so that the state can provide critical aid to an ever-growing population of adults who shouldn’t have to compromise their own health,” said Kathryn Kietzman, one of the study’s authors and director of the UCLA CHPR’s Health Equity Program. She’s also a senior research scientist at UCLA CHPR and associate researcher at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “Moreover, health and social service providers can implement policies that require the assessment of caregiver needs and create more targeted programs that respond to the multiple challenges that many caregivers are facing.”

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) is one of the nation’s leading health policy research centers and the premier source of health policy information for California. UCLA CHPR improves the public’s health through high quality, objective, and evidence-based research and data that informs effective policymaking. UCLA CHPR is the home of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) and is part of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. For more information, visit healthpolicy.ucla.edu.

Read The Policy Brief

View: Who Is Caring for the Caregivers? The Financial, Physical, and Mental Health Costs of Caregiving in California