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New research finds unpaid care has huge impact on mental health and affects low income households

Research conducted across Europe has shown unpaid care has a huge impact on mental health.

The same research also found unpaid care is more likely to be provided by people from low income households.

The Eurocare research, published on 29 May 2024, examined unpaid care provided by people of all ages across Europe. It was carried out by University College London and St George’s, University of London, with support from Carers Trust and research teams in Spain, Norway and Germany.

For people aged 15 to 29 across Europe, the research found:

  • One in ten people in this age bracket are carers
  • More than a quarter of these young adult carers come from households ranked in the bottom fifth for income.
  • The mental health of this group deteriorates after becoming a carer, and this impact on their mental health worsens the more time they spend caring
  • Those providing more than 20 hours of unpaid carer per week are 96% more likely to report poor mental health compared to their peers who are not carers
  • Caring also has an impact on education and future life opportunities: in the UK young adult carers are 38% less likely to have a degree than their peers who are not carers; those providing 35 hours care or more per week are 86% less likely to have a degree.

For people aged 30-49 in the UK, unpaid care is also linked to worsening mental health and the effects persist for years after care starts.

  • The impact is more pronounced for women compared to men, the research showed.
  • Carers in this age bracket are also more likely to come from disadvantaged households:
  • Of those ranked in the lowest two-fifths of the population for household income, 17% were carers, compared to just 12% of those in the richest fifth of the population.
  • The research also showed that older carers are more likely to report loneliness.

Recommendations based on the research

The researchers concluded that support must be ramped up with financial assistance programmes, carer tax credits and social safety nets for low-income carers.

It also recommended increased support for their mental health and wellbeing, including access to counselling services, community engagement, social support networks and mental health screening programmes.

Full Reports

The research group has produced three reports for the respective age groups of carers:

Eurocare report on young adult carers

Eurocare report on mid-life carers

Eurocare report on older carers

You can read the Carers Trust press release here.