Prevalence of caregiving and high caregiving strain among late-career medical school faculty members: workforce, policy, and faculty development implications

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Background: Nearly one-third of medical school faculty members are age 55 +. As our population ages, the prevalence of family caregiving is increasing, yet we know very little about the caregiving experiences of aging faculty members in academic medicine. Faculty caregiving responsibilities coupled with projected physician shortages will likely impact the future academic medical workforce. We examined the prevalence of caregiving, concomitant caregiving strain, general well-being, and thoughts about retirement for medical school faculty members age 55 and older. Methods: We analyzed data from a survey of 2,126 full-time medical school faculty 55 + years of age conducted in 2017. Chi-square tests of independence and independent samples t-tests were used to examine statistical differences between subgroups. Results: Of the 5,204 faculty members invited to complete the parent survey, 40.8% participated (N = 2126). Most were male (1425; 67.2%), White (1841; 88.3%), and married/partnered (1803; 85.5%). The mean age was 62.3 years. Of this sample, 19.0% (n = 396) reported providing care on an on-going basis to a family member, friend, or neighbor with a chronic illness or disability, including 22.4% (n = 154) of the female respondents and 17.3% (n = 242) of the male respondents. Among the caregiving faculty members, 90.2% reported experiencing some or a lot of mental or emotional strain from caregiving. Caregivers gave lower ratings of health, social and emotional support, and quality of life, but greater comfort in religion or spirituality than non-caregivers. Both caregiving and non-caregiving faculty members estimated retiring from full-time employment at age 67.8, on average. Conclusion: These data highlight caregiving responsibilities and significant concomitant mental or emotional strain of a significant proportion of U.S. medical schools’ rapidly aging workforce. Human resource and faculty development leaders in academia should strategically invest in policies, programs, and resources to meet these growing workforce needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalHuman resources for health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Academia
  • Caregiving
  • Faculty development
  • Workforce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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