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Background: Informal caregivers providing unpaid assistance may be vulnerable to changes in health behaviors due to modifications in caregiving during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, this cross-sectional study explored self-reported changes in physical activity (PA), sedentary behavior, and screen time among informal caregivers providing care for older adults aged 50+ during the pandemic.

Methods: Study participants were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and reported their perceived changes (increased a lot, increased a little, remained the same, decreased a little, decreased a lot) in moderate-intensity PA (MPA), vigorous-intensity PA (VPA), sedentary behavior, and screen time (weekday and weekend) during the pandemic. For analytic purposes, response categories were categorized into three-level ordinal variables—increased (increased a lot, increased a little), no change (remained the same), decreased (decreased a little, decreased a lot). Multinomial logistic regression models assessed the likelihood of changes (vs. no change) in MPA, VPA, sedentary behavior, and screen time (weekday, weekend) based on caregiving and demographic characteristics.

Results: In total, 2574 individuals accessed the study link, 464 of whom did not meet eligibility requirements. In addition, people who completed 80% or less of the survey (n = 1171) and/or duplicate IP addresse (n = 104) were excluded, resulting in an analytic sample of n = 835. The sample was 69% male, had a mean age of 34 (SD = 9.7), and 48% reported increased VPA, while 55% reported increased MPA. The majority also reported increased sedentary behavior, as well as increased screen time. Respondents living with their care recipient were more likely to report increased weekday screen time (Odds Ratio [OR] = 1.55, 95% CI 1.11–2.16) and sedentary behavior (OR = 1.80, 95% CI 1.28–2.53) than respondents not living with the care recipient. Those living with their care recipient were also more likely to reported increased MPA (OR = 1.64, 95% CI 1.16–2.32), and VPA (OR = 1.53, 95% CI 1.09–2.15), but also more likely to report a decrease in VPA (OR = 1.75, 95% CI 1.14–2.70).

Conclusion: The majority of respondents reported that their MPA, VPA PA, sedentary behavior, and screen time had changed during the pandemic. Living with the care recipient was associated with both positive and negative changes in behavior. Future research can explore factors associated with these reported changes in behavior.

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BMC Public Health



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Mary L. Greaney, Megan M. Drohan and Steven A. Cohen are from the Department of Health Studies.

Christie L. Ward-Ritacco is from the Department of Kinesiology.