Caring for the Caregivers
In our aging population, increasing numbers of Canadians are caring for loved ones with chronic medical or mental illnesses. This can be time-intensive and long-lasting, and can create significant economic, social, psychological and physical burdens for families. Studies have also associated prolonged caregiving with a higher risk of poor psychological and physical health.
Dr. Jean-Philippe Gouin, Canada Research Chair in Chronic Stress and Health, aims to improve our understanding of caregiving so we can develop effective ways to reduce its burden.
Gouin is examining the psychosocial factors that can increase or decrease the stress that long-term caregivers experience. These include the quality of interpersonal relationships, health behaviours (such as exercise and sleep), and the use of community support services.
Gouin and his research team are also looking into the biological factors at work in the negative impact of chronic stress on health. Chronic psychological stress can interfere with the immune system, leading to excess inflammation. While inflammation is an essential immune response to acute infection and injury, too much inflammation increases the risk for poor health outcomes. Gouin and his team are identifying how chronic stress-related changes in cardiovascular, hormonal and immune function can lead people to overproduce inflammatory markers and increase their risk for poor health.
Ultimately, Gouin’s research will improve quality of life for Canadians by developing ways to reduce the negative psychological and biological consequences of chronic stress.