Press Releases

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Study Finds Unpaid Caregivers At Risk of 26% Health Decline

The health impact associated with caregiving is more pronounced for Millennials than for Gen X and Baby Boomers

PITTSBURGH (September 22, 2020) — New findings from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s (BCBSA) industry-first study on the health of caregivers finds that caregivers had 26% poorer health, as measured by the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Health Index, compared to the benchmark population due to the stress and pressure of the caregiver role. The findings come from a new BCBSA report, “The Impact of Caregiving on Mental and Physical Health," part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series, which analyzed a data sample of caregivers based on BCBS claims data. The report represents the first time in the health care industry that claims data has been used to study the relationship between health status and caregiving.

The BCBSA study sample identified at least 6.7 million commercially insured BCBS members who have a spouse or child in need of caregiver support. To better understand the current state of caregivers and learn more about how to support their better health, BCBSA collaborated with ARCHANGELS, an independent national movement and platform that is reframing how caregivers are seen, honored and supported using a combination of data and stories.

A recent survey from ARCHANGELS found that COVID-19 has increased demand for unpaid caregivers, with 61% of Americans reporting that they are now taking care of or looking out for a friend, neighbor or family member due to the pandemic. Fifty-five percent of current caregivers would not have identified themselves as such before the pandemic. The survey also found that a greater number of Black (57%) and Hispanic (64%) caregivers are providing care for loved ones in their home than their white (37%) counterparts.

To help support caregivers, Highmark continues to build and fund solutions that address caregivers’ distinct needs, including education, transportation, care coordination and care management. Blues On Call health coaches are available to members to discuss ways to prevent or reduce stress. Health coaches can be reached at 1-888-258-3428. Blue 365 offers health and wellness discounts for our members and is free to join: https://www.blue65deals.com. Highmark member can also download the Sharecare app for secure & personalized insights, information, daily tracking, programs, and health tools to live their healthiest life. 

Compared to the benchmark population, caregivers, especially those in the Millennial age group, are more likely to experience stress-related conditions. Nationally, the health impacts associated with Millennial caregivers, aged 22-37, seem to be more pronounced for this group compared to the benchmark population, with the following conditions being more prevalent:

 

% increase in reported conditions among MILLENNIAL Highmark BCBS members, as compared to benchmark populations

Condition

National

Delaware

Pennsylvania

West Virginia

Hypertension

82%

           95%

76%

73%

Anxiety

60%

36%

57%

46%

Major Depression

64%

42%

54%

41%

Obesity

74%

69%

67%

46%

Hospitalization Rate

59%

76%

61%

24%

ER Visit Rate

33%

46%

50%

34%


The added stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic along with balancing current and new work-life responsibilities has had a particular impact on unpaid caregivers. A national survey conducted by BCBSA found that 1 in 4 unpaid caregivers are feeling more stress trying to balance work and family due to COVID-19. According to ARCHANGELS, early in the pandemic, caregivers were turning to a variety of negative coping mechanisms, including: Alcohol (14%); Medication (18%); Food (50%). 

“This information highlights the ongoing need to completely understand the whole person inclusive of her/his life responsibilities, the impact they have on each other, and how, where and when self-care is available and possible,” said Demetrios C. Marousis, Director, Behavioral Health at Highmark Inc. “The impact of COVID-19 has exacerbated the impact secondary to social distance impacts and loss.”

“Wherever you are right now, look to your left, look to your right. One of you is a caregiver. Being a caregiver is one of the most important jobs many of us will ever do. It’s also one of the hardest – with profound physical and mental health impacts,” said Alexandra Drane, Co-founder and CEO at ARCHANGELS. “So, the first and most important step we all need to take, is to check in on ourselves and our loved ones. Next, we need to continue the discussion on how we can provide caregivers with the resources, support and infrastructure they need to stay healthy, starting with The Health of America Virtual Forum coming up in October.”

In an effort to continue to address and learn more about the emerging needs of caregivers in their communities, BCBSA will host a two-day virtual forum on caregivers and millennial health on October 28 and 29.

Caregivers looking for additional support within Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, can reach out to Highmark to find out what programs and resources are available to them.

This is the 33rd study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series, which examined data from commercially-insured members in the BCBS claims database, alongside data and support from ARCHANGELS, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) and U.S. Census data.

All company names and brands are the property of their respective owners and used for identification purposes only and are in no way associated or affiliated with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Use of these names and brands does not imply endorsement.

About Highmark Inc.

One of America's leading health insurance organizations and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Highmark Inc. (the Health Plan) and its affiliated health plans (collectively, the Health Plans) work passionately to deliver high-quality, accessible, understandable, and affordable experiences, outcomes, and solutions to customers. As the fourth-largest overall Blue Cross Blue Shield-affiliated organization, Highmark Inc. and its Blue-branded affiliates proudly cover the insurance needs of more than 5.6 million members in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia. Its diversified businesses serve group customer and individual needs across the United States through dental insurance and other related businesses. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.

For more information, contact:

Denée Crumrine
Highmark Delaware
410-322-5874
Denee.Crumrine@highmarkhealth.org