The health impact of providing unpaid care

2011 Census Analysis – The provision of unpaid care in Warwickshire

Unpaid carers* make an important contribution to the overall supply of care services. As the population2011 Census  grows and ages, an increasing number of people are likely to continue to provide significant levels of care. As such, it is important to recognise the potential impact that providing many hours of care each week may have on carers’ own quality of life – their physical and mental health, employment opportunities and social and leisure activities.

New information, therefore, from the 2011 Census provides a valuable update on the picture of unpaid care provision in Warwickshire. The following analysis looks at trends in the provision of unpaid care in Warwickshire and highlights how those providing high levels of unpaid care are more likely to report that their own health is ‘not good’.

Levels of unpaid care in Warwickshire 2001-2011

The 2011 Census indicates that Warwickshire has  59,250 people or 11% of the population providing some form of unpaid care each week.

While rates of unpaid care provision are similar to those in 2001 (although absolute numbers have increased),  the data suggests that carers are providing more hours of care each week than ten years ago;  in 2011, around one in five carers (12,438 people) in Warwickshire were providing more than fifty hours of unpaid care each week.

Who provides unpaid care in Warwickshire

Generally, women were more likely to be unpaid carers than men; 58% of unpaid carers in Warwickshire were women and 42% were men. This gender difference remains broadly similar irrespective of the number of hours of care undertaken each week.

Unsurprisingly, rates of unpaid care provision increase with age among both men and women, up to the age of 65. The data indicates that the share of unpaid care provision is higher for women aged 50-64 years.  Indeed, one in four women in this age group provides some level of unpaid care.

The gender difference appears to diminish among those aged 65 plus with men slightly more likely to provide unpaid care than women.

Younger carers (aged between 0 and 24 years) are identified as of particular concern because of the potential impact of caring responsibilities on educational outcomes and wider social opportunities. The 2011 Census reveals that just over three and a half thousand young people report providing some level of unpaid care each week in the county- almost four hundred young people report caring for over fifty hours per week.

The impact of providing unpaid care on general health

Overall, in Warwickshire, those providing unpaid care were more likely to describe their general health as ‘not good’; 25% of those providing some unpaid care each week described their health as ‘not good’ compared with a lower rate of 17% among those who provided no care at all. Moreover, there appears to be a relationship between the self-reported health status of unpaid carers and the amount of unpaid care provided.

The graph below demonstrates the increasing proportion of carers describing their health status as ‘not good’ as more hours of caring are undertaken each week. In Warwickshire, of those caring for fifty plus hours per week, 43% describe their health as ‘not good’.

Health status of carers in Warwickshire by levels of unpaid carer provided each week, 2011

Health status of carers in Warwickshire by levels of unpaid care provided each, 2011

Source: Census, 2011

The difference between the health status of those providing unpaid care and those who do not is most pronounced among those aged 0-24 years.  Carers in this age category are more than twice as likely to report that their health is ‘not good’ compared with their peers who provide no care. This difference is even more marked for young carers who care for fifty plus hours per week; they are five times more likely to report their health as ‘not good’ compared to those of the same age providing no care.

Future Issues

The role of unpaid carers is likely to continue to play a significant role in the overall supply of care in Warwickshire. The data indicates that more carers are caring for longer and that, moreover, higher levels of unpaid care correspond to higher levels of individuals’ reporting that they are not in good health. This was especially marked for young people who provide unpaid care. As a result, there is a particular need to reach out to groups providing high levels of weekly care who may be most at risk of their own health and well-being deteriorating.

Further Information

2011 Census data about the general provision of unpaid care is available down to small areas called Output Areas containing as few as forty households. The more detailed information about the age, sex, ethnicity and general health of carers is available at district/borough level and Middle Super Output Areas and Wards. Access to all data is available from the Nomis website.

If you have any comments or questions about 2011 Census data, please contact the Observatory on research@warwickshire.gov.uk

*A person provides unpaid care if they look after or give help or support to family, friends, neighbours or others because of long-term physical or mental health issues, a disability or problems related to old age or substance misuse. The 2011 Census asked people to state if they provided any unpaid care and to select the typical level of care provided each week from 1-19 hours, 20-49 hours or 50+ hours.

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