Abstract

Background: Unpaid carers who look after another member of their household (home- carers) have poorer mental health than the general population. The first COVID-19 national lockdown led to an increasing reliance on home-carers and we investigate the short and longer-term impact of lockdown on their mental health. Methods: Data from 9,737 adult participants (aged 16+) from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (Understanding Society) were used to explore changes in 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) score between (a) pre-pandemic (2019) and early lockdown (April 2020) and (b) early and later (July 2020) lockdown. Results: GHQ-12 scores among home-carers were higher pre-lockdown and increased more than for non-carers from 2019 to April 2020 with further increases for home-carers compared with non-carers between April and July. Compared with respondents caring for a spouse/partner, those caring for a child under 18 had a particularly marked increase in GHQ- 12 score between 2019 and April, as did those caring for someone with learning difficulties. Home-carers of children under 18 improved from April to July while those caring for adult children saw a marked worsening of their mental health. Home-carers with greater care burden saw larger increases in GHQ-12 score from 2019 to April and from April to July, and increases through both periods were greater for home-carers who had formal help prior to lockdown but then lost it. Conclusions: The mental health of home-carers deteriorated more during lockdown than non-carers. Policies that reinstate support for them and their care-recipients will benefit the health of both vulnerable groups.

Rights

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.

Cite as

Whitley, E., Reeve, K. & Benzeval, M. 2021, 'Tracking the mental health of home-carers during the first COVID-19 national lockdown: evidence from a nationally representative UK survey', Psychological Medicine, (test), pp. 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291721002555

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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