Throughout August we will be shining the spotlight on loneliness among carers. Nearly 7 million adults in the UK look after a sick or disabled family member or friend who cannot care for themselves. Carers often have little time to themselves and can become lonely and socially isolated.
Caring for another person can be tiring, upsetting and very time consuming. Some people can keep their job and provide care when they are not at work. They sacrifice their spare time and social lives to provide for the person they care for. Others can’t manage this balance. Over 1.3 million people provide over 50 hours of care per week. 1 in 5 carers are forced to give up their jobs all together. Without colleagues or any time to spend with their friends, carers can find themselves socially isolated.
People who provide care are also at a high risk of finding themselves in poverty. There is a Carer’s Allowance available to people who provide care for 35 hours or more each week. However, this allowance is £62.10 – the equivalent to just £1.77 per hour. This is far below the national minimum wage (£6.70). Many carers are parents and £1.77 an hour is not enough to support a family.
The lack of personal time, low income and high levels of stress can leave carers isolated and lonely. A study by Carers UK found:
- 49% of carers’ romantic relationships are damaged by their caring responsibilities
- 36% feel uncomfortable talking to friends about caring
- 55% feel that they can’t get out much because of their caring responsibilities
- 45% can’t afford to take part in social activities
- 57% have lost touch with family and friends as a direct result of caring
All of these factors combine to cause isolation and loneliness. 83% of carers surveyed admitted to feeling lonely.
Loneliness can have a direct impact on mental and physical health. It can lead to depression, anxiety and reduced immune response, meaning that the person is more likely to get sick. These aren’t just problems for the individual: they also affect the person (or people) that they care for and their own family. Finally, people who provide care save the economy £132 billion a year through their caring responsibilities and make up 1 in 8 of the adult population. Looking after the health and wellbeing of carers is important for everyone.