Inequalities in informal caregiving over the adult life course in Europe: social participation, health and the influence of Covid-19

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Epidemiology and Public Health

Abstract

This consortium will investigate inequalities in caregiving from a life course perspective. Increased longevity gains have not been
accompanied by an increasing number of years spent disability free, leading to an increased need for care for older people. European
countries vary dramatically in how they have met this rising care demand, but across most of Europe the majority of care is provided
informally by families, friends, or neighbours. Smaller family sizes, partnership dissolution and women's strengthening ties to paid work may
lead to a diminishing pool of informal carers in the face of increasing need. In addition, delayed childbearing means there are likely to be a
growing number of young adults with older parents requiring care, more carers providing care to parents and children simultaneously
(sandwich care), as well as a growing number of adult grandchildren caring for surviving grandparents. In addition, caregiving is not equally
distributed. Women are more likely to provide care, to have provided care for longer and to care more intensively than men, and gender
inequality in who provides care is greater in countries that rely on a family-based model. In addition, caring itself acts as a form of
inequality, limiting access to financial and social resources. Existing evidence suggests that caring leads to labour market exits; reduced
working hours, salaries and pension entitlements; loss of training opportunities and career advancement; and is associated with poorer
psychological and physical health. However, existing research has largely been based on cross-sectional samples of older-adults or has
focussed on care for specific groups, such as dementia sufferers. In addition, most research on caregiving has focused on older spouses, or
older working age carers, while younger carers are often overlooked in policy and research. Younger caregiving occurs at a time when
young adults are seeking to complete education, establish themselves in the job market and form long-term relationships. Young adult
carers are also likely to have fewer financial and socio-emotional resources than older carers. We will harness Europe's longitudinal,
population data investments, as well as a wealth of both methodological and substantive experience in a multidisciplinary team of leading
European academics and non-academic partners to examine inequities in employment, social participation and health between carers and
non-carers at different life stages, as well as the gender, socioeconomic and ethnic differences in the social, economic and health
consequences of caregiving. Comparisons in these life course care inequalities will be made across European country contexts, with a
specific focus on young adult carers as well as those providing care in mid- and later-life. Where data allow, the initial impact of changes in
informal care related to the COVID-19 pandemic will also be included. Finally, we include a specific research objective and work package
focused on working closely with our non-academic partners to translate our results into policy recommendations.

Publications

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