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Who's at risk and why?

Adults :: Carers :: Who's at risk and why?

In any one year an adult has a 6.6% chance of becoming a carer; this likelihood is greater in women than it is in men (7.3% and 5.8% respectively). By the time a woman has reached the age of 59 she has a 50% chance of having had significant caring responsibilities at least once; for a man the equivalent age is 74 years.[1]

Caring may have a substantial negative economic impact as a significant number of carers also either give up or reduce their hours of work in order to care. There is also a cost to society in terms of both reduced income from taxation and increased benefits payments. It has been estimated that carers in the UK miss out on between £750 million and £1.5 billion a year in earnings.[2] A Carers UK survey found that one third of carers were unable to afford their utility bills and almost half were cutting back on essentials such as food and heating.[3]

Caring is associated with an increase in health problems in those providing the care. Common problems include physical injuries and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.[3] Among older people mortality rates may also be higher in carers than in non-carers.[4] However, carers do not visit the doctor any more than non-carers, suggesting that they may not be accessing the services that they require.[5] If carers are struggling with the demands of caring this may also have consequences on the health of the person being cared for. In one study, the carer's inability to cope was found to be the principal reason for re-admission of patients in 14% of cases, but problems with the carer were felt to contribute to as many as 62% of re-admissions.[6]

Nationally, we are seeing an ageing population and correspondingly the number of carers over the age of 65 is increasing more rapidly than the general carer population; increases of 35% and 11% respectively seen in England between 2001 and 2011 Census surveys.[7] See table below for breakdown of increases in elderly carers by age. Elderly carers may have health problems of their own, so developing adequate support for this group of carers is essential.

  Number of older carers 2001 Number of older carers 2011 % increase
Aged 65 to 74 582,287 725,251 25%
Aged 75 to 84 261,240 377,923 45%
Aged 85 and older 38,291 87,346 128%
Total 881,818 1,190,520 35%
Table 1: Breakdown of elderly carers in England from 2001 and 2011 Census data. [7]

Anyone under the age of 18 who is in some way affected by the need to take physical, practical and/or emotional responsibility for the care of another person is termed a 'young carer'. Young carers can be particularly vulnerable as they are often undertaking a level of responsibility that is inappropriate to their age or development and for this reason may also be reluctant to seek help.


[1]   MGeorge, Carers UK. It could be you. A report on the chances of becoming a carer 2001; Carers UK. .
[2]   Buckner L, Yeandle S. Valuing carers 2011. Calculating the value of carers' support 2011; Carers UK. .
[3]   Carers UK. The cost of caring 2011; Carers UK. .
[4]   Schulz R, Beach S. Caregiving as a risk factor for mortality: the caregiver health effects study Journal of the American Medical Association 1999; 282(23): 2215-2219.
[5]   Polen M, Green C. Caregiving, alcohol use, and mental health symptoms among HMO members Journal of community health 2001; 26(4): 285-301.
[6]   Williams E, Fitton F. Survey of carers of elderly patients discharged from hospital British Journal of General Practice 1991; 41: 105-108.
[7]   Carers UK. Caring into later life: The growing pressure on older carers. 2015;