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Is Spousal Caregiving Associated With Enhanced Well-Being? New Evidence From the Panel Study of Income Dynamics

Objectives.We explore whether spousal caregiving is associated with enhanced well-being for older husbands and wives.Method.We use time diary data from the 2009 Panel Study of Income Dynamics and Disability and Use of Time supplement. We measure experienced well-being as ratings of happiness and frustration during activities recalled for the previous day. We estimate separately for husbands and wives 3 distinct effects on experienced well-being: having a spouse with a disability; doing household or personal care tasks (“chores”) for someone other than a spouse with a disability; and doing such tasks for a spouse with a disability (“care”). RESULTS: For husbands, neither care status nor spouse's disability status are associated with experienced well-being. In contrast, for wives, carrying out chores is associated with lower reports of happiness compared with other activities and providing care to one's husband is associated with greater reports of happiness than carrying out chores.Discussion.For women, chores such as meal preparation, laundry, and cleaning-but not caregiving per se-are associated with worse experienced well-being than other activities. Findings underscore that there are positive aspects of spousal caregiving for older wives that offset the innately unpleasant nature of household tasks.