July 12, 2012

Family Caregivers Online

30% of U.S. adults are caregivers

The internet is an integral part of the lives of people who care for loved ones

Washington, DC (July 12, 2012) – Thirty percent of U.S. adults 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. Most are caring for an adult, such as a parent or spouse, but a small group cares for a child living with a disability or long-term health issue. 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

Eight in ten caregivers (79%) have access to the internet. Of those, 88% look online for health information, outpacing other internet users on every health topic included in our survey, from looking up certain treatments to hospital ratings to end-of-life decisions.

“Caregivers use the internet to navigate the frontier of home health care,” says Susannah Fox, an associate director of the Pew Internet Project and lead author of the study. “Caregivers not only care for their loved one’s physical and emotional needs, but their information needs as well, and the internet is a key resource.”

These findings are based on a survey conducted in September 2010 by the Pew Internet Project and supported by funding from the California HealthCare Foundation.

Caregivers are somewhat better educated and more likely to be middle-aged (ages 50-64) than are non-caregivers. However, statistical analysis shows that when comparing people of similar age, education and other demographic characteristics, being a caregiver in and of itself is associated with a greater likelihood of using the internet, particularly to get and share health information.

Caregivers are more likely than other internet users to take advantage of social tools related to health, such as blogs and social networking sites. Caregivers are also more likely than other internet users to read online reviews of drugs, clinicians, and medical facilities.

The chart below is one of 12 in the report showing the differences between caregivers and non-caregivers:

Health topics

This report is the result of collaboration between the Pew Internet Project and the California HealthCare Foundation.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project is an initiative of the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. The Project is nonpartisan and takes no position on policy issues. Support is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The California HealthCare Foundation is an independent philanthropy committed to improving the way health care is delivered and financed in California.