Impact of caring

The impact of caring on carers represents the single largest category of research findings in a review of knowledge and research evidence. The review presents findings from a scoping review of knowledge and research evidence relating to carers and carers lives and issues. It reflects that caring is a complex experience that can impact on all aspects of a person’s life.

Whilst every caring situation is personal and distinctive, there are many aspects of the caring role which are shared.

Impact on carers

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Demands and satisfactions of caring

The physical, emotional and psychological demands of caring can be demanding and stressful and are often referred to by researchers collectively as ‘the burden of care’. This has been widely investigated. Less is known about the satisfactions of caring. Research indicates that these may reduce carer burden for many individuals. More longitudinal analyses (as opposed to the use of cross-sectional data) are required to fully understand the effects of satisfactions on caring, which positive aspects might be more important than others, and how we might support and help enhance these. That some carers manage the multiple demands of caring better than others has led to exploration of different coping strategies and how they relate to experiences of ‘carer burden’ . Work is being done on identifying how best to support carers to enhance their resilience.

Caring takes a toll on carers’ education and employment opportunities, including career development, promotions and pay rises, as well as impacting on carers’ ability to work at all. Indeed many are forced to give up work altogether or take early retirement or reduced hours. Evidence about ways of supporting carers to combine work and care suggests that work-related flexibility (such as in working part-time hours) is often less helpful than ‘informal flexibility’ i.e. being contactable at work. This approach offers carers ‘peace of mind’ and enables them to focus more effectively on their work. Young carers’ education has been shown to suffer as a consequence of caring.


There has been an increasing policy focus on carers and employment matters in recent years, highlighting the need for greater ‘carer awareness’ by employers and the need for carer-friendly workplaces. The role of assistive technology in supporting carers has also received greater attention. In 2015, a consortium of government departments commissioned SCIE to manage the delivery and evaluation of a two-year pilot programme – The Carers in Employment (CIE) programme. This aims to test what works to support carers to remain in and/or return to employment.

Carers’ health

The impact of caring on carers’ physical and psychological health is well-documented. However, the evidence indicates that the relationship between caregiving and health is neither linear nor causal, and typically the impact is mediated by a range of factors. These include the intensity of care (carers providing at least 20 hours of support a week are at greater risk); being a co-resident carer, spouse carer and/or female; the number of competing demands carers face (e.g. the simultaneous demands of paid employment and other family responsibilities alongside caring); individuals’ coping skills and resources, and the support they – and the cared for person – receives from other family members, the wider community and formal services.

Although complex as an issue, awareness of ‘risk factors’ is important for the identification of groups of carers who are most likely to experience adverse effects and also to inform policy development and practice interventions.

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