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Characteristics of older unpaid carers in England: A study of social patterning from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Laurie Davies, Dr Gemma Frances SpiersORCiD, Dr David Sinclair, Dr Andrew KingstonORCiD, Professor Barbara Hanratty



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Geriatrics Society.Background: A growing number of older people provide unpaid care, but contemporary research evidence on this group is limited. Aim: This study aims to describe the characteristics of older people who provide unpaid care and how these vary by socioeconomic position. Methods: Using recent information from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA wave 9, 2019), we analysed cross-sectional data on 1,282 unpaid carers aged ≥50. Data on sociodemographics, health, social wellbeing, care intensity and caregiver-recipient relationships were extracted. Total net non-pension wealth quintiles were used as a relative measure of socioeconomic position. Differences between the poorest and richest wealth quintiles were examined through logistic regression. Findings: Most older carers in ELSA were female and looking after another older person. Poor mental and physical health and social isolation were common, and socially patterned. Compared with carers in the middle wealth group, the poorest group were more likely to be living with the person they cared for (odds ratio (OR) 1.56 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03-2.36]) and more likely to experience loneliness (OR 2.29 [95% CI 1.42-3.69]), dependency (i.e.The need for help with activities of daily living) (OR 1.62 [95% CI 1.05-2.51]), chronic pain (OR 1.81 [95% CI 1.23-2.67]), a higher number of diseases (OR 1.75 [95% CI 1.15-2.65]) and fair/poor self-rated health (OR 2.59 [95% CI 1.79-3.76]). The poorest carers were also less likely to have a high quality of life (OR 0.51 [95% CI 0.33-0.80]) or be in work (OR 0.33 [95% CI 0.19-0.59]). Conclusion: Our findings suggest that financially disadvantaged unpaid carers (and their households) may have the greatest needs for intervention and support. Focussing resources on this group has potential to address social inequalities.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Davies LE, Spiers GF, Sinclair DR, Kingston A, Hanratty B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Age and Ageing

Year: 2024

Volume: 53

Issue: 3

Print publication date: 01/03/2024

Online publication date: 15/03/2024

Acceptance date: 23/01/2024

Date deposited: 02/04/2024

ISSN (print): 0002-0729

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2834

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/ageing/afae049

PubMed id: 38497238


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Funder referenceFunder name
National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR)
National Institute on Aging