Greater feelings of purpose in life are associated with better health and may reduce the negative impact of chronic stress. Yet little is known about how purpose in life may buffer the negative effects of caregiving, a common chronic stressor in middle and later life.
This cross-sectional study utilized a U.S. sample of 315 spousal caregivers and their partners with functional disability drawn from the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study and National Study of Caregiving to examine how both parties' perceptions of purpose in life are associated with caregivers' emotional and physical caregiving difficulties. We also evaluated whether care recipients' purpose in life moderates the association between caregivers' purpose in life and care-related difficulties. Finally, we considered whether these links differed by caregiver gender. Models controlled for caregivers' sociodemographics, care tasks, support resources, valued activity participation, and each care partner's health conditions.
Caregivers' greater purpose in life was significantly linked to fewer physical caregiving difficulties. Caregivers' greater purpose in life was significantly associated with fewer emotional care-related difficulties among caregiving wives and when care recipients' purpose in life was low.
Although the associations between purpose in life and care-related difficulties are likely bidirectional, purpose in life may represent an important resource for combating the adverse consequences of caregiving. This study highlights the value of considering personal resources and their implications for caregivers' well-being within a dyadic context.