A quarter of sandwich carers report symptoms of mental ill-health

More than 600 people quit their jobs each day to look after older and disabled relatives
Helen Walker, chief executive, Carers UK

More than one in four sandwich carers have shown symptoms of mental ill-health while looking after both sick, disabled or older relatives and children.

This group of carers are more likely to experience conditions such as anxiety and depression than the general population, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis.

Around 3% of the UK population – more than 1.3 million people – have twin care responsibilites.

The research found that the prevalence of mental ill-health rose with the amount of care given. More than 33% of sandwich carers providing at least 20 hours of adult care per week reported symptoms of mental ill-health, compared with 23% of those providing fewer than five hours each week.

The ONS found that people providing fewer than five hours of adult care each week reported slightly higher levels of life and health satisfaction compared to the general population. Around 76% were satisfied with life, while 10% were dissatisfied. Meanwhile, 74% of the general population were satisfied with life, with 16% dissatisfied.

As well as reporting a lack of leisure time, 41% of sandwich carers looking after someone in their home said they could not work at all or as much as they would like.

Women sandwich carers – who account for 68% of those providing at least 20 hours of adult care per week – were more likely to feel restricted. Around 46% of females felt unable to work at all or as much as they would like, compared with 35% of men.

One in three sandwich carers said they were ‘just about getting by’ financially, while one in ten were ‘finding it difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to cope. Only 17% said they were ‘living comfortably’, compared with 32% of the general population.

Commenting on the findings, Carers UK chief executive Helen Walker (pictured) said: ‘The sandwich generation – those caring for children as well as sick, older or disabled relatives – is a growing group in our ageing population. Beyond dual caring responsibilities, there is increasing pressure on this group to juggle work with caring and, as a result, it is one of the most time-poor and stressed generations.

‘Given these pressures it is no surprise that more than a quarter of sandwich carers report symptoms of mental ill-health, and that this increases with the amount of care provided. As well as impacting on carers’ health and wellbeing, the strain also takes its toll on their ability to work – more than two million people have given up work to care for older or disabled relatives.’

The ONS collected data over a 24-month period in 2016 and 2017, using a sample size of 34,000 individuals.