skip to main content
Caregiving Costs U.S. Economy $25.2 Billion in Lost Productivity

Caregiving Costs U.S. Economy $25.2 Billion in Lost Productivity

This is part two in a special series of in-depth articles on what it means to be a working caregiver in the United States. Part one revealed the demographics of working caregivers in the United States. Part three will look at how caregivers report spending their time and specifics of who they are caring for.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Working American caregivers -- those who work at least 15 hours per week and help care for an aging family member, relative, or friend -- report that their caregiving obligations significantly affect their work life.

The majority of caregivers say that caregiving has at least some impact on their performance at work. Based on a five-point scale, where five is a great impact and one is no impact, 10% of caregivers choose five and 44% pick somewhere between two and four.

Additionally, 24% of caregivers say that providing care to an aging family member, relative, or friend keeps them from being able to work more.

Most caregivers also report missing entire workdays as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. Thirty-six percent report missing one to five days per year because of caregiving duties, while 30% say they missed six or more days in the past year.

Overall, caregivers reporting missing an average of 6.6 workdays per year. With approximately 17% of the American full-time workforce acting as caregivers, this amounts to a combined 126 million missed workdays each year. This absenteeism costs the U.S. economy an estimated $25.2 billion in lost productivity per year. Including caregivers who work part time in the equation would cause absenteeism costs to climb even higher.

These findings are from a special survey of Americans who self-identified as caregivers in Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index surveys throughout 2010. Gallup recontacted those self-identified caregivers and interviewed 2,805 who were also employed at least 15 hours per week for a Pfizer-ReACT/Gallup poll specifically about caregiving. All respondents answered affirmatively to the question, "Do you currently help care for an elderly family member, relative, or friend, or not?"

Most Working Caregivers in Professional Roles

Nearly one-third of all working caregivers are in a professional occupation, with another 12% each in service and management roles. Less than 5% of caregivers work in other professions such as installation/repair, transportation, and construction.

Most caregivers (71%) indicate that their employer is aware of their caregiving status, but another 28% believe that their employer is unaware. Furthermore, an analysis of knowledge of workplace support programs shows that about one-quarter or less of working caregivers have access to support groups, ask-a-nurse-type services, financial/legal advisors, and assisted living counselors through their respective workplaces.


Many caregivers face significant physical and emotional challenges on a routine basis. Given the significant effect that caregiving can have on workplace absenteeism, business leaders should be mindful of the unique realities that caregivers encounter.

Ultimately, providing an organized support system for these employees may prove to be a fruitful investment for businesses, given the high percentages of working caregivers who would like to work more if they could. Many working caregivers are likely interested in seeking support in work-life balance to help them meet their responsibilities as caregivers and employees alike, and the accessibility to assistance could potentially go a long way toward greater productivity in the U.S. workplace.

Survey Methods

Results for this Pfizer-ReACT/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 28, 2010-Jan. 9, 2011, with a sample of 2,805 adults, aged 18 and older, who self-identified as caregivers and were working at least 15 hours per week, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Respondents had previously self-identified as caregivers in Gallup Daily tracking surveys conducted throughout 2010 and were recontacted to participate in this survey.

For results based on the total sample of caregivers, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points. For smaller groups, such as full-time employed caregivers, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2.3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

cost of caregiving.gif
occupation type of caregivers.gif
caregivers support.gif

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030