Over 30% of retired women face high caregiving pressure, according to latest YWCA survey

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3rd March 2024 – (Hong Kong) As International Women’s Day approaches on March 8th, a recent survey conducted by the Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) has shed light on the mental health concerns faced by retired women. The survey revealed that during the second half of their lives, approximately half of women aged 50 and above spend nearly a quarter of their day caring for family members. More than 30% of respondents reported feeling that the caregiving responsibilities were excessively time-consuming and caused significant stress. Additionally, over 70% of participants expressed concerns about inadequate financial reserves, while over 40% believed their post-retirement quality of life had declined. The burden of caregiving, coupled with personal health issues and worries about finances and the future, has raised red flags regarding the mental well-being of these women.

The survey, conducted between December of the previous year and January of the current year, involved 930 retired women between the ages of 50 and 70. The results showed that half of the surveyed women aged 50 and above reported the need to care for family members, including partners, parents, and children, which was a common situation. On average, they spent approximately 5 hours and 42 minutes per day on caregiving tasks, accounting for nearly a quarter of their day. Among the respondents, 31.6% felt that the caregiving responsibilities were too long, while 31.4% expressed experiencing significant stress.

Furthermore, the survey also highlighted the health challenges faced by retired women aged 50 and above. About 80.6% of participants reported having existing health conditions, while 86.8% mentioned being troubled by physical pain. The most prevalent concern among the respondents was the deterioration of physical function, with 94.3% expressing worry in this regard. To assess the mental health status of the participants, the survey incorporated the General Health Questionnaire-12 (GHQ-12). The results indicated that 53.2% scored 13 or above, suggesting emotional distress and signalling the need for attention.

These concerns may stem from a lack of planning and preparation prior to retirement. In terms of financial aspects, 74.0% of respondents worried about insufficient financial reserves, with 53.7% feeling that their retirement savings were inadequate. Additionally, 40.1% believed that their standard of living had declined compared to before retirement. Only 38.3% of participants reported having retirement savings, reflecting the desire for greater support from society.

One retiree, Ling had six brothers and one younger brother. Before retiring, Ling was the primary caregiver for her mother. Subsequently, one of her brothers experienced mobility issues due to amputation, and Ling had to frequently take leave to accompany him for medical check-ups, receiving little support from her other siblings. Last year, Ling’s husband was diagnosed with a chronic illness, prompting her decision to retire and care for him. However, she still found herself responsible for her brother’s care. Ling admitted that her retirement life did not turn out as expected. Originally, she had planned to travel frequently with her husband after retiring, but it now involved frequent visits to hospitals with her loved ones. Ling also expressed concerns about her financial reserves and whether they would be sufficient to cover unforeseen medical expenses, leading her to reduce dining out and entertainment activities.

In Chinese society, women have traditionally shouldered the responsibility of caring for their families. Gender norms have forced them to become caregivers, leaving little room for rest and inadvertently neglecting their own physical and mental well-being. It is recommended that open and honest communication regarding family roles and caregiving responsibilities should be initiated early on.