Children and pensioners endure heavy burden of caring

December 11, 2003

More children and pensioners act as informal carers for family or friends with chronic illness than previously thought, and many of these are not in good health themselves, according to a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers analysed the 2001 UK census data, which for the first time, asked the entire population about caring responsibilities. About 5.9 million people provided informal care for another person. Of these, 114,000 were children aged between 5 and 15 and more than one million were people aged 65 and over.

Nearly 9,000 children and 381,000 people aged 65 and over provided at least 50 hours of care a week. Many of these children and pensioners were not in good health themselves.

Even the oldest age group (more than 85 years) included 44,000 carers, more than half of whom were providing at least 50 hours of care a week.

Many would consider this an unacceptably heavy burden for children and pensioners, say the authors. Further research is needed to show the impact that this burden of care has on the lives and future wellbeing of young and elderly people.


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