The Lifelines Cohort Study: a data source available for studying informal caregivers’ experiences and the outcomes of informal caregiving
Informal care is taking an increasingly important role in our health care system, and an improvement in our understanding of caregiving experiences and outcomes has become more relevant. The Lifelines informal care add-on study (Lifelines ICAS) was initiated within the Lifelines Cohort Study to cover the large heterogeneity in the caregiver population and to investigate the complex interplay among the characteristics of the caregiver, care recipient, and care situation and positive and negative caregiver outcomes. In this paper, we discuss the study design and data collection procedures of Lifelines ICAS, provide a detailed overview of its measures, and describe the caregiver study population.
Lifelines participants who participated in the 2nd Lifelines follow-up questionnaire were asked whether they provided informal care. Subsequently, they were invited to participate in Lifelines ICAS. Descriptive statistics were used to describe all informal caregivers in the 2nd Lifelines follow-up questionnaire and to describe the subsample of informal caregivers participating in Lifelines ICAS.
A total of 11,651 Lifelines participants were self-identified as an informal caregiver and provided basic information about their care situation. A subsample of 965 informal caregivers participated in Lifelines ICAS and completed a comprehensive questionnaire about their care situation. In this subsample, the average age of caregivers was 53 years (SD 9.8), 75% were female, and 56% cared for a parent (in-law). Care recipients were on average 68 years old (SD 23.5), and 64% were female.
Considering that informal caregivers are a huge resource for our health care system, Lifelines ICAS enables the study of differences among caregivers, care recipients, and care situations, as well as the study of common characteristics and features across caregiver groups. Notably, data from the Lifelines Cohort Study and Lifelines ICAS are available to all researchers on a fee-for-service basis, and Lifelines ICAS data may be enhanced by one or more follow-up measurements or linkages with other data sources.
Informal careCaregiving experiencesStudy designAdd-on studyThe Netherlands