Thirty percent of U.S. adults say they help a loved one with personal needs or household chores, managing finances, arranging for outside services, or visiting regularly to see how they are doing.
The majority of caregivers say they care for an adult, but about one in five caregivers has a child with significant disabilities or health issues. The population breaks down as follows:
- 24% of U.S. adults care for an adult
- 3% of U.S. adults care for a child with significant health issues
- 3% of U.S. adults care for both an adult and a child
- 70% of U.S. adults do not currently provide care to a loved one
While we did not ask caregivers directly about the impact of the internet on their delivery of care to their loved ones, there are patterns in the data indicating that the impact is significant. Caregivers make extensive use of the internet for health information, over and above what they may do for their own health situation.
The report is primarily based on a national telephone survey conducted in September 2010. Although the data set is two years old, we believe it is still relevant since many of the trends we describe change very slowly, such as the percentage of adults who care for loved ones and the use of the internet to gather health information, neither of which have changed appreciably since the Pew Internet Project began tracking those activities in 2002. In addition, the demographic data we collected matches the findings of a more recent survey by the AARP Public Policy Institute. Where possible, we have used 2012 survey data by the Pew Internet Project to update more fast-moving trends, such as the use of social networking sites.
Who are the caregivers?
Women are slightly more likely than men to be caring for a loved one, as are adults ages 50-64, compared with other age groups. Caregivers are more likely than other people to report that they themselves are living with a disability, 34% compared with 24%.
The call to aid a loved one cuts across all other boundaries: those who work full-time and those who are retired; those who have children at home and those who do not; those who are married and those who are single; those who enjoy a high income and those who do not. All of these groups are equally likely to say they are caring for an adult or a child who needs their help.
In addition to being likely to have recently experienced a personal medical emergency, caregivers are more likely than other people to report that someone close to them has faced a serious medical crisis in the last 12 months: 44%, compared with 21% of non-caregivers. Based on this data, caregivers seem likely to be people who are familiar with the route to their local emergency room.
Caregivers are also likely to know their way around technology:
Statistical analysis shows that when all other demographic factors are controlled, being a caregiver in and of itself is independently associated with someone’s likelihood to use the internet.