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Global study highlights significant COVID-19 toll on wellbeing of informal carers

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Leading global science and technology company Merck has released the Carer Well-Being Index, produced through its Embracing Carers initiative exploring the impact of COVID-19 on informal or family carers.

The Carer Well-Being Index was commissioned in partnership with global carer advocacy groups, including Carers Australia, and surveyed more than 9000 respondents from across 12 countries.

The release of the insights coincides with Carers Australia’s National Carers Week, which recognises and celebrates unpaid carers across Australia providing care and support to loved ones.

Carers around the world have long faced hurdles, but the pandemic has elevated specific tasks for carers, amplifying their responsibilities.

Reports such as the Carer Well-Being Index help to raise further awareness of the role that incredible role unpaid carers play in our communities and the ongoing issues that they face.

Liz Callaghan, CEO of Carers Australia

The ongoing pandemic has forced many people to assume caregiving responsibilities for the first time, with more than 2.65 million Australians (10.6 per cent of the population) now identifying as unpaid carers.

“Reports such as the Carer Well-Being Index help to raise further awareness of the role that incredible role unpaid carers play in our communities and the ongoing issues that they face,” Liz Callaghan, CEO of Carers Australia, said.

“By continuing to shine a light on these issues, we can provide better support to the millions of carers across the country and create a more supportive, inclusive Australian healthcare ecosystem.”

More than half of Australia’s carers (54 per cent) said that their duties at home have increased due to the pandemic.

These duties include home maintenance, housekeeping and personal hygiene responsibilities for their loved ones.

Fifty-six per cent of Australian caregivers believe the pandemic has made caregiving harder, taking a toll on the emotional wellbeing and mental health of 57 per cent.

Of those whose emotional well-being and mental health has worsened, 38 per cent cited having less time to spend with family and friends and 32 per cent said they felt like they did not have anyone to turn to.

Josie Downey, managing director of Merck Healthcare for ANZ, said carers are an invaluable part of the Australian healthcare landscape, providing vital care for people across the country yet the pivotal role they play in the community is often overlooked.

The … study provides insight into negative impact the pandemic period has had on the physical, emotional and financial health of carers across Australia and highlights the need for actions from the public and private sectors to alleviate the increasing pressure being placed on carers.

Josie Downey, managing director of Merck Healthcare for ANZ

“The Carer Well-Being Index study provides insight into negative impact the pandemic period has had on the physical, emotional and financial health of carers across Australia and highlights the need for actions from the public and private sectors to alleviate the increasing pressure being placed on carers,” Downey said.

With informal carers giving almost 27.5 hour of care per week, an increase of 5.7 hours when compared with before the pandemic, 76 per cent are feeling burnt out.

All carers are facing difficult times, but in Australia, low-income carers and those caring for individuals with an ongoing cognitive health condition face their own unique struggles.

Of these, 51 per cent believe they are not getting enough support from social services and care professionals.

Almost all carers (96 per cent) globally surveyed agree that it’s important to have increased access to health care services to ensure they are able to provide proper care needed, pointing to the important role both the public and private sector can play in better supporting informal carers.

To download the Global Carer Well-Being Index report, please click here.

Carer Well-Being Index Methodology

In partnership with a third-party global leader in multinational market research, a survey was fielded via online and phone methodologies from September 3 – October 27, 2020 across 12 countries of which included the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, Brazil, Taiwan, India and China.

The study consisted of 9044 unpaid carers (with about n=750 in each country surveyed).

Unpaid carers were defined as those who are caring for someone with a long-term illness, physical disability, or cognitive/mental condition (including cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Spinal cord injury, Muscular Dystrophy, cognitive/mental condition, Congestive Heart Failure, etc.). 

Outgoing sample collected was balanced to the Census of each respective country to then allow qualifying respondents to fall out naturally.

Light weighting was applied in select countries to achieve better national representation.

At the 95 percent confidence level, the total for the 12-country, global carer population has an estimated margin of error of +/- 1.03 percentage points and each individual country has an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

The survey length was approximately 20-25 minutes.

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