Almost forty per cent of unpaid carers are experiencing chronic anxiety, a survey of carers has found.
Carers Queensland’s Quality of Life Audit also reveals that almost one in three (30 per cent) feel socially isolated and 39 per cent report feeling chronic anxiety.
The survey, based on responses from more than 500 of Queensland’s 400,000 carers, also shows carers feel unrecognised and unrespected, and 57 per cent say their mental and physical health has suffered as a result of their caring responsibilities.
“While caring can be rewarding and brings about life affirming experiences, without appropriate support, it can have significant long term and inter-generational negative effects on the health, wellbeing, relationships, employment and social and financial inclusion of individual carers and caring families,” the report says.
It highlights a ‘clear relationship” between the carer and diminished health and wellbeing.
“Caring relationships, particularly those of a longer duration or very intense responsibilities, can result in carers becoming separated and isolated from their immediate family and informal network and their community,” the audit says.
Carers Queensland Chair Jim Toohey, who launched the report last week, says carers are an invisible and unpaid workforce, providing 1.9 billion hours of care nationally.
Their unpaid work saves Australia an estimated $60.3 billion a year – or more than $1 billion a week.
“The link between mental health illnesses and social isolation is real, “Mr Toohey said.
“Chronic anxiety is just one symptom of the social isolation they experience as a result of their caring role.
“The implication is clear, if carers are not feeling connected to their communities, families, circle of friends or workplace, the effects on their mental health is quite serious.”
Mr Toohey says carers can become trapped in a vicious cycle where they withdraw more as anxiety levels increase, with the increased isolation feeding into more anxiety.
“Without access to the appropriate support services at the right time, caring families will continue to experience lower quality of life than other population groups,” Mr Toohey said.
Carers Queensland warns in the report that the situation is likely to get worse as the population ages and people live longer with chronic and acute conditions.
“Without improved access to the appropriate support services at the right time, caring families will continue to experience a lower quality of life than other population groups,” it says.
Findings from the report:
- 49 per cent provide 12 or more hours of care and support per day
- 42 per cent of respondents of working age believe that their caring role is not recognised or supported with their community
- 59 per cent are reliant on Centrelink or personal savings
- 47 per cent live in a household with a combined income of less than $40,000 per year
- 19 per cent are lonely most of the time
- 26 per cent are dissatisfied with their ability to access educational and learning opportunities
- On average, only 4 per cent of respondents are completely satisfied with their current quality of life.