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“Sandwich carers”, those who care for both sick, disabled or older relatives and dependent children, are more likely to report symptoms of mental ill-health, feel less satisfied with life, and struggle financially compared with the general population. That’s the conclusion of the Office for National Statistics in its latest study into the Health & Wellbeing of the UK.

Almost 27% of sandwich carers show symptoms of mental ill-health while caring for both sick, disabled or older relatives and children. Around 1.3 million people, now have this responsibility in the UK and as a result are more likely to experience symptoms of mental ill-health than the general population, which includes anxiety and depression according to the ONS analysis for 2016 to 2017.

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 72% of the sandwich carer generation are aged between 35 and 54 years, while 62% are women. Whereas among the general population, 38% are aged 35 to 54 years and 51% are women.
Many sandwich carers are not satisfied with the amount of leisure time they have. Those looking after their relative in their own home, 50% of whom provide at least 20 hours of adult care per week are least satisfied. Women sandwich carers are also much more likely to be economically inactive than men with just over a quarter of them not part of the labour market, compared with just 10% of men in the same situation. It should be said, though, that the majority of sandwich carers are able to balance their job with caring responsibilities. More than half of those providing care at home say this does not prevent paid employment.

Clearly, caring for two generations could have an impact on carers’ finances. 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. Meanwhile, only 17% say they are “living comfortably”, compared with 32% of the general population.

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