THE mental health of unpaid carers deteriorated more during lockdown than that of non-carers, according to a new study.

Researchers found that unpaid carers who looked after another member of their household (home carers) had poorer mental health than the general population before lockdown and that this worsened as lockdown continued.

During the first lockdown last year there was an increasing reliance on home carers, who have been described as “the forgotten healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic”, with many existing carers providing more support and other individuals taking on new caring roles as many health and social care services not related to Covid-19 were withdrawn.

The research, led by the University of Glasgow’s MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit with colleagues at the University of Essex, examined data from 9737 adults from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (Understanding Society) to explore changes in mental health between pre-pandemic and early lockdown, and also between early and later lockdown.

While the mental health of home carers of children under 18 improved from April to July, there was a “marked worsening” in that of those caring for adult children.

Declines in mental health were particularly marked among home carers with a greater care burden or who had formal help before lockdown but then lost it.

Lead researcher Dr Elise Whitley, of the University of Glasgow, said: “Prior to the pandemic almost nine million people in the UK were providing unpaid care for an individual.

“We found that individuals providing care for a member of their household had poorer mental health than non-carers prior to the pandemic and that this worsened as lockdown continued.

“This research shines a spotlight on the challenges facing informal carers before and during the pandemic.”