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.
Almost 27% of sandwich carers show symptoms of mental ill-health while caring for both sick, disabled or older relatives and children.
With life expectancy increasing and women having their first child at an older age, around 3% of the UK general population, equivalent to more than 1.3 million people, now have this twin responsibility.
Sandwich carers are more likely to experience symptoms of mental ill-health – which can include anxiety and depression – than the general population (22%), according to our analysis for 2016 to 20174.
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.
People providing fewer than five hours of adult care each week report slightly higher levels of life and health satisfaction, relative to the general population.
Some of the differences between the two groups could be explained by demographic differences. For example, more than 72% of the sandwich 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.
Around 76% of those providing fewer than five hours of adult care say they’re satisfied with life, while just 10% are dissatisfied. Meanwhile, 74% of the general population are satisfied with life, with 16% saying they’re dissatisfied.
However, when sandwich carers spend more than five hours a week providing adult care, they report lower levels of life and health satisfaction than the general population.
As well as reporting a lack of leisure time, 41% of sandwich carers looking after a relative within their home say they’re unable to work at all or as much as they’d like.
Women sandwich carers – who account for 68% of those providing at least 20 hours of adult care per week – are more likely to feel restricted than men. Around 46% of women feel unable to work at all or as much as they’d like, compared with 35% of men.
However, ONS says that the majority of sandwich carers are able to balance their job with caring responsibilities. More than 59% of those providing care at home say this does not prevent paid employment.
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.