Becoming an unpaid carer for family and friends negatively affects mental health, research has found.
Data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (2009-20) was used to examine mental and physical health changes in those aged 16 and over when becoming a caregiver. Health was measured via a general health questionnaire and a 12-item survey. Analyses were carried out by age group, gender, and caregiving intensity.
For all ages, psychological distress increased when becoming a carer, with particular effect on those younger than 64, those providing 20 or more hours per week of care, and those who lived with the person they cared for.
Mental health functioning was worst amongst those aged 30-64, those providing 20 or more hours per week of care, and those who lived with the person they cared for.
Researchers did not notice a change in physical health functioning during the transition to becoming a caregiver. Changes to health did not differ by gender.
Lead author Dr Rebecca Lacey said: ‘We urge health leaders to take this evidence seriously and ensure that health practitioners quickly identify carers of their patients, including those who are younger adults, so their health can also be reviewed. This is going to be crucial to break the cycle of care need.’
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