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Caring for Older People With Bold Personalities Could Harm Your Health

Update Date: Mar 01, 2013 09:54 AM EST
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Caring for older people who have bold personalities may be harmful to your health, according to a new study.

Cornell researchers found that people who cared for older people who were thought of as "easy going" and "well intentioned" reported better physical health than those who cared for headstrong and less agreeable seniors. However, researchers found no significant effects regarding the caregivers' mental health.

The latest study published Dec.11 in the Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, consisted of 312 pairs of caregivers and care receivers.  Researchers say that the study is the first to look at the influence of care-receiver personality on caregiver health.

Unsurprisingly, caregiver health was particularly low when they cared for "leader type" seniors who were both low in agreeableness and highly extraverted, according to researchers.

"That kind of personality may be very successful in a business setting, but it's not if you're receiving care," senior author Corinna Loeckenhoff, assistant professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, said in a statement.

"The care recipient's personality is just as important a factor for caregiver health as chronic pain and physical impairment," lead author Catherine Riffin, a graduate student in the field of human development, said in a statement. "Clinical evaluations of care giving settings should take this into account."

Researchers say that the latest findings have implications for millions of Americans who provide informal eldercare.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 15 and nearly 25 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 provided some elderly care in 2011.

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