Tracking the mental health of home-carers during the first COVID-19 national lockdown: evidence from a nationally representative UK survey

Whitley, E. , Reeve, K. and 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, (doi: 10.1017/S0033291721002555) (PMID:34108060) (PMCID:PMC8245331) (Early Online Publication)

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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.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:COVID-19, carers, mental health, inequalities, longitudinal.
Status:Early Online Publication
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Whitley, Dr Elise and Benzeval, Dr Michaela
Authors: Whitley, E., Reeve, K., and Benzeval, M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Psychological Medicine
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0033-2917
ISSN (Online):1469-8978
Published Online:10 June 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © The Author(s), 2021.
First Published:First published in Psychological Medicine 2021
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence
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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
Inequalities in healthMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_00022/2HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SPHSU17