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UK’s unpaid carers seven times lonelier than general public

10 June 2019
  • Loneliness epidemic facing UK’s unpaid carers
  • Urgent support needed as number of adult carers rises by a third to nearly 9 million
  • Seven national charities call for step change in the way society supports those caring unpaid for family and friends


Unpaid carers looking after loved ones living with an illness, disability, mental health condition or as they grow older are seven times more likely to be lonely compared with the general public, new figures suggest.

Not having enough time, or money, to participate in leisure activities, as well as the stigma of being a carer, means one in three unpaid carers (35 per cent) are always or often lonely, compared with just one in twenty (five per cent) of the general population.

Research released for Carers Week 2019 (10th – 16th June) also reveals unpaid carers feel what they do in life is significantly less worthwhile compared with the rest of the population, with those struggling financially over a third less likely to feel that the things they do in their life are worthwhile. This is despite the vital support carers provide their loved ones and their enormous contribution to society.

The extent of loneliness and poor wellbeing amongst carers is revealed as new estimates suggest there could be far more people caring unpaid than previously thought.

There are a potential 8.8 million adult carers in the UK, up from 6.3 million estimated in the 2011 census – a huge increase of a third.

With one in six adults now taking on a caring role and at a heightened risk of loneliness – referred to as one of the greatest public health challenges of our time - seven national charities have come together to highlight the urgent need to tackle loneliness and improve wellbeing among the UK’s carers, who all too often put their needs second.


On behalf of Carers Week charities, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said:

“With as many as one in six adults in the UK now taking on an unpaid caring role it is high time our society recognises and values the crucial support they provide.

“Many unpaid carers struggle alone without support. If we are to combat the loneliness epidemic facing them it is imperative that everyone – Government, employers, health and care professionals, schools and universities, and each of us individually – plays a role putting carers in touch with practical and financial help.

“Carers need to feel they are valued, understood and connected to their community.”

The research comes from a survey of carers, the majority of whom provide over 50 hours of care for a loved one each week.

Evidence shows those worst affected by loneliness are parent carers looking after disabled children under 18 years old, being nearly ten times lonelier than the general public.

Unpaid carers report being twice as anxious as the general public, and those struggling financially or going without practical support with caring are half as satisfied with life as the rest of the population.

The findings show how financial and practical support can help improve the wellbeing of the UK’s 8.8 million carers and get them better connected to their communities.

The charities supporting Carers Week 2019 are calling for unpaid carers to be at the heart of much needed reforms to the funding of social care and for carers to be better supported financially. They are Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, MS Society, Rethink Mental Illness and Sense.

The headline supporter of Carers Week 2019 is British Gas, who will be providing its customers with support and advice on unpaid caring throughout the week, and Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition also supporting.

- ENDS -


Media contact

Case studies and spokespeople are available on request.

For media enquiries, please contact Carers UK who are handling media queries for Carers Week:

020 7378 4937 (daytime)

07534 487 027 / 07941 273 108 (out of hours)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Notes to Editors

About the research

Increase in number of carers:

The rise in number of carers was extrapolated from polling carried out by YouGov in December 2018 and January 2019, taking 17% of the adult population who say they are a carer in response to and applied it to mid-2017 population estimates of those aged 18 and over for each nation in the UK.

Carer loneliness and wellbeing:

The population data on loneliness used for comparison is from the ONS Analysis of characteristics and circumstances associated with loneliness in England using the Community Life Survey, 2016 to 2017. Published in April 2018.

Population data on wellbeing is taken from the Personal well-being estimates for personal wellbeing averaged across 2018. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland comparisons for wellbeing are to the figure for that nation’s whole population.

Population data was compared with data from Carers UK’s State of Caring Survey. Carers UK carried out the online survey between March and May 2019 and a total of 8,096 carers and former carers responded to this survey. Responses from the 7,525 people who are currently providing care are included in this report. Compared to the carer population as a whole, respondents to this survey were more likely to be female and caring for a high number of hours every week.

About Carers Week 2019

Carers Week takes place from 10-16 June 2019 across the UK. The theme is Getting Carers Connected.

Carers Week, established by Carers UK 25 years ago, is an annual awareness campaign which takes place to celebrate and recognise the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5 million carers. It is also a time of intensive local activity with hundreds of events planned for carers across the UK.


Twitter: @CarersWeek #carersweek


There are lots of different ways to get involved in Carers Week. From sharing information with a struggling friend, to handing out leaflets at your local GP’s surgery, we all have a role to play to help get carers connected.


What is a carer?

A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition or who needs extra help as they grow older.

The Centrica and Carers UK partnership

Carers UK and Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, have entered into a strategic partnership, building on a 15-year relationship which has helped Centrica develop leading policies to support employees who are carers. This includes paid care leave and a thriving UK carers’ employee network.

Together we want to create a world where every carer feels recognized, valued and supported. That means sharing useful information, raising awareness and finding new ways to care for our loved ones in their homes. We hope to make a lasting difference.

British Gas is leading the way with its multi-channel Share That You Care campaign throughout 2019, encouraging a conversation about caring. Carers often don’t open up about the struggles they have, so they don’t get the support they need. Speaking to carers, British Gas has produced a series of videos to raise awareness of the issue, and encourage others to share their appreciation of the carers in their lives. British Gas will be communicating with customers and via social media and to help carers seek support through For Carers week, British Gas is focused on helping those struggling with the impact of Isolation and loneliness from caring, supporting the new research from Carers UK.

About Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition

Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition pioneers nutritional solutions that help people live longer, more joyful and healthier lives. Nutricia helps to address some of the world’s biggest health challenges including age-related conditions and chronic disease, such as frailty, cancer, stroke and early Alzheimer’s disease.

Carers UK is working in partnership with Nutricia to help improve understanding about nutrition and care amongst carers. They provide support to carers though information resources, training, social media days and website information.

For more information on Nutricia visit  

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