8 in 10 people caring for loved ones have felt “lonely or socially isolated”
Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness shines a spotlight on unpaid carers
It’s time to start a conversation about caring, as new research from Carers UK shows more action is needed to support unpaid carers who have felt isolated and lonely. Greater understanding from friends, colleagues, and the public, as well as more opportunities for breaks and social activities, are all needed to combat a ‘silent epidemic’ of loneliness affecting those providing support to ill, older or disabled loved ones.
More than 8 in 10 (83%) surveyed unpaid carers in Wales described themselves as “lonely or socially isolated” due to their caring responsibilities, with those affected facing a potentially damaging impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. The report suggests that current carers who did not feel lonely were less likely to suffer mental (37%) and physical (34%) ill-health compared to those who did. Lonely carers were almost twice as likely to report worsened mental (77%) and physical (63%) health.
Amongst carers, an unwillingness to talk to others about care responsibilities was a key barrier to inclusion at work, home and in the community. One third (32%) felt “uncomfortable” talking to friends about caring. Alongside a lack of understanding from others, carers most frequently ascribed loneliness or social isolation to a lack of time or money to socialise and the difficulty of leaving the house due to caring commitments.
According to carers, the following would make the biggest difference in combatting loneliness:
- Regular breaks from caring (52%)
- More understanding from society (51%)
- Being able to take part in leisure activities (37%)
- Support paying for leisure activities (27%)
- Being in touch with other carers (33%)
- Feeling more able to talk to friends and family (21%)
- Being able to take part in education or training (23%)
The findings are released today as part of the charity’s work with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. The Commission aims to ‘Start a Conversation’ around loneliness, mobilising the public to combat the ‘silent epidemic’ by destigmatising a prevalent but often unaddressed issue.
As a founding partner of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, Carers UK is shining a spotlight on loneliness in caring, along with ways to break isolation.
On 16th September, Carers UK will remember Jo Cox when they announce the winner of the Jo Cox Poetry Prize as part of Carers UK’s Creative Writing and Photography Competition which includes a category for images and written pieces which address loneliness.
Claire Morgan, Director of Carers Wales, said:
"Loneliness and isolation can have a huge impact on health and wellbeing. On a daily basis around Wales, carers are experiencing overwhelming feelings of loneliness but are suffering in silence. Many people care for loved ones and friends, yet society and public services often fail to grasp how isolating caring for someone can be. This can be worsened by financial pressures, poor understanding from friends and colleagues, and a lack of regular breaks.
We’re asking everyone to start a conversation about caring, to help combat the isolation that some carers feel.
Jo Cox said that "young or old, loneliness doesn't discriminate". We are delighted to be working towards her ambitions for a more understanding and supportive society. Together, we can show how starting the conversation can help break isolation.”
Carers Wales is urging both carers and the wider public to do the following:
- Among friends and family, we can start by putting ourselves in the shoes of others and seeking to understand each unique caring situation through honest conversation.
- In the workplace, we can start a conversation by talking about caring issues with colleagues and promoting carer-friendly policies.
- In the community, we can start a caring conversation as we go about our daily business, whatever we do for a living - whether for example we’re a shop assistant, a GP, a leisure centre manager, a pharmacist, or work in an office.
- As carers, we can identify the key triggers for our loneliness and start a conversation with somebody in a position to support us. This could mean opening up to family and friends, or checking out Carers UK’s online guides (www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice) to see what help is available or joining Carers UK – a supportive community and movement of carers and former carers https://www.carersuk.org/how-you-can-help/join-us?nsrc=wal
- To feel more connected to other carers, ‘Starting a Conversation’ in the Carers UK online forum (carersuk.org/forum), via social media using the #HappytoChat hashtag, or within a local support group carersuk.org/help-and-advice/get-support/local-support can help you connect to people experiencing similar situations