Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Why it’s time to care more about the UK’s young caregivers

12 November 2022

ICLS' Child of our Time blog outlines new research from our centre on the outcomes of young carers and calls for more targeted support.

Young carer

Initial findings from a new ICLS study looking at the prevalence of caregiving among 16-29 year-olds in the UK has prompted calls from the research team for policymakers to provide better services and more targeted support for young carers, many of whom already come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Writing for ICLS' Child of our Time blog, Giorgio Di Gessa, Anne McMunn, Rebecca Lacey and Baowen Xue say their new work is helping to paint a more comprehensive picture of young carers in the UK in order to show where inequalities may exist or emerge over time between those young people who are in a caring role and those who are not. 

Using information collected by the Understanding Society study the research team has shown that between 2009-2021 around one in ten young people was providing care with many of them (more than half) doing so over a period of years. 

Overall, about 50% of carers spent 0–4 hours per week providing care (the lowest category in the questionnaire); the majority (92%) cared for only one person; the most frequently reported recipients of care were parents (42%) or grandparents (40%). Nearly half the carers (49%) reported this activity for only 1 year, with almost 30% caregiving for 3 or more years. 

The findings also draw attention to the increased role of young women as carers. 

ICLS Deputy Director Anne McMunn said:

"Compared with non-carers, the young people in our study came from more disadvantaged backgrounds. They tended to be financially worse off, in less well paid routine or manual jobs, from an ethnic minority and to report poorer health, particularly if they told us they were caring at two or more points across the 10 year period."

Young Adult Carers in the UK—New Evidence from the UK Household Longitudinal Study is research by Giorgio Di Gessa, Baowen Sue, Rebecca Lacey and Anne McMunn and is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.