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Impacts of caring

Caring for a family member or friend can be very rewarding, but it also has its challenges. Carers are more likely than other Australians to experience a range of health, wellbeing and socioeconomic issues, and many are not able to access the support they need.

The rewards of caring

The most common reason carers give for taking on a caring role is a sense of family responsibility (70.1%).1 Yet for most carers it is more than just a duty. Providing care can be rewarding in many ways:

  • The satisfaction of knowing you have helped someone who needs you and that you have done the best you could to improve their quality of life
  • Strengthening the relationship with the person you care for and knowing how much they appreciate your help
  • The opportunity for personal growth and the development of new skills
  • Proving to yourself that you can meet new challenges
  • Receiving the acknowledgement of your family and friends

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

The challenges of caring

Caring can, however, take a lot of time, energy and resources. Without the right support in place, caring responsibilities can take over, and start affecting carers’ health and wellbeing and limiting their ability to participate in paid work, family life and social and community activities.

It is important to recognise the challenges caring so that carers can seek support when they need it. It is also important for families, communities, service providers, governments and employers to understand the challenges of caring so that the support options available can be continually expanded and improved.

Carers NSW regularly makes recommendations to the NSW and Australian governments about policy and program changes that will reduce or address the challenges that carers experience.

Common challenges that carers experience include: health and wellbeing challenges, social isolation and financial hardship.

Health and wellbeing

Caring can be time consuming as well as emotionally and physically draining, and this can affect carers’ overall wellbeing.

  • Carers responding to the 2020 National Carer Survey reported an average score of 57%, compared with 75% for the general population.2
  • Providing care for a loved one can impact carers’ mental health. Nearly half of the carers who responded to the 2020 National Carer Survey reported high or very high levels of psychological distress.
  • Carers often do not have the time or energy to prioritise their own health. Nearly 2 in 3 carers have a chronic health condition, compared to 1 in 3 Australians overall.3

2 Carers NSW 2020 National Carer Survey

3 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

Social isolation and relationships

Caring can reduce the time available to carers to spend quality time with friends, family members and the person they care for. Carers often miss out on the social opportunities associated with work, recreation and leisure activities as a result of their caring responsibilities

  • More than half of the carers who responded to the 2020 National Carer Survey indicated that they were socially isolated or highly socially isolated.
  • Nearly 2 in 3 carers responding to the 2020 National Carer Survey reported having less than 10 hours per week to themselves.
  • Carers often have to deal with strong emotions, like anger, guilt, grief and distress that can affect their relationships with others. Carers responding to the 2020 National Carer Survey reported very low satisfaction with their relationships compared to the Australian population, especially when they did not feel recognised in their caring role.

Financial hardship

Caring is associated with increased living costs as well as reduced income, as carers’ capacity to participate in paid work is often reduced. This can lead to financial hardship, which can add to the other stresses of caring.

  • 1 in 4 carers responding to the 2020 National Carer Survey had left a paid job at some point in order to care, and 1 in 3 had reduced their working hours.
  • Twice as many carers of working age (aged 15-64 years) live in a low income household, and 1 in 4 rely on a Centrelink payment, compared to only 1 in 10 non-carers.4
  • Half of the carers who responded to the 2020 National Carer Survey had experienced some form of financial stress in the past 12 months.
  • Nearly 2 in 3 carers responding to the 2020 National Carer Survey had to pay extra for medicines, 1 in 2 for transport, and 1 in 3 for disability aids and health services.

4 Ibid