More than a quarter of ‘sandwich carers’ – those who have the twin responsibility of caring for sick, disabled or elderly relatives, as well as their own children – are suffering from depression and anxiety, a new study suggests.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that 27% of parents who also look after older, sick or disabled relatives show symptoms of mental ill-health compared to 22% of the general public.
The prevalence of mental ill-health increases with the amount of care given. More than 33% of sandwich carers providing at least 20 hours of adult care per week report symptoms of mental ill-health, compared with 23% of those providing fewer than five hours each week.
More than 1.3 million people in the UK are now sandwich carers, in part due to the increasing life expectancy and women having their first child at an older age, according to the ONS.
Women provide most of the care for older, sick or disabled relatives, making up 68% of the carers who provide more than 20 hours of care per week.
Just over half (59%) of the UK’s ‘sandwich generation’ say that their caring responsibilities have not prevented them from entering paid employment.
However, one in three sandwich carers say they are ‘just about getting by’ financially, while one in ten are ‘finding it difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to cope.
Hugh Stickland, head of Strategy and Engagement at ONS, said: “With an increasing ageing population and people deciding to have children at an older age, more people across the UK may soon find that they are part of a new ‘sandwich generation’.
“This affects more women than men, with women more likely to feel restricted in how much they can work alongside looking after older, sick or disabled relatives and children. The well-being of sandwich carers is varied, with parents who spend less than five hours a week looking after older, sick or disabled relatives seeing slightly higher health and life satisfaction compared with the general population. However, those who spend more time caring show lower levels of health and life satisfaction, and are more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety.”