Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Perceived Neighborhood Characteristics and Biological Risk Among Spousal Caregivers (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

120P (see Poster Gallery) Perceived Neighborhood Characteristics and Biological Risk Among Spousal Caregivers

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Yeon Jin Choi, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Jennifer Ailshire, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Southern California, CA
Objectives: Family members are the primary source of care and support for community-dwelling older adults. Previous studies have reported that caregivers often experience poorer health than non-caregivers, including worse cognitive functioning, increased cardiovascular disease risk, and more depressive symptoms. The effect of caregiving on the health and well-being, however, varies. For instance, the negative effect of caregiving decreased significantly among caregivers with more psychosocial resources, such as self-efficacy and social supports, compared to those with less psychosocial resources. On the other hand, ongoing chronic stressors, such as caregivers’ health problems and financial strains, increased caregiving stress and resulted in poor health outcomes. Neighborhoods may also play an important role as resources or a source of stress in caregiver health. However, most prior research on caregivers’ mental health focused on individual or household factors, we know much less about the influence of neighborhood factors on mental health of spousal caregivers. The current study fills the gap in our knowledge by examining the association of neighborhood characteristics and biological risk among spousal caregivers.

Methods: We used data from 2006 to 2016 waves of the Health and Retirement Study, as these were the waves in which respondents’ evaluation of their neighborhoods and biomarkers were collected. Perceived neighborhood characteristics included perceived neighborhood disorder and neighborhood social cohesion. Biological risk was assessed using nine biomarkers: systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, pulse rate, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, glycated hemoglobin, cystatin-C, obesity, and C-reactive protein. Poisson and logistic regression models were estimated to examine the association of perceived neighborhood characteristics and biological risk.

Results: Perceived neighborhood characteristics were significantly associated with biological risk. Respondents with low levels of neighborhood disorder and low levels of social cohesion (IRR=1.30, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.66) and those with high levels of neighborhood disorder and low levels of social cohesion (IRR=1.53, 95% CI: 1.26, 1.86) had an increased biological risk compared to those who lived in more cohesive neighborhoods than those with low levels of neighborhood disorder and high levels of neighborhood social cohesion. When we included additional confounding factors (i.e., hours of caregiving, type of care, smoking status), the association between perceived neighborhood characteristics and overall biological risk remained significant.

Conclusion and Implications: This study highlights the importance of neighborhood contexts in understanding caregivers’ health. Findings of this study suggests that spousal caregivers may be less influenced by neighborhood disorder when they feel that they can rely on their neighbors. Therefore, policy makers and practitioners should prioritize strengthening social ties in neighborhoods before directing resources to reduce signs of neighborhood disorder.