A blog entry by Dr Yanan Zhang, Sustainable Care Research Associate

I recently attended an event in London titled ‘Understanding of Informal Care in Mid-Life: Linking qualitative and quantitative data’. The event was organised by the University of Southampton and Age UK in order to disseminate the results of their research project “Extending our understanding of informal care provision in mid-life in the UK by linking qualitative and quantitative data in the National Child Development Study”, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Secondary Data Analysis Initiative.

Professor Athina Vlachantoni and Dr Ning Wan presented their work on the informal care for parents, employment and mental health, and the mediating effects of social participation. Analysing waves 8 and 9 of the National Cohort Development Study, they find that mid-life carers are more likely to reduce the amount of paid work undertaken in order to provide informal care if they:

  • are female
  • are single or never-married
  • are in low paid employment
  • have poor health
  • have frequent contact with their parents.

They also find that social participation has a potentially positive effect on carers’ mental health and life quality. However, time, energy and finances are the main barriers to social participation for carers.

Participants in the workshop appealed for more studies that identify policy recommendations regarding how to help carers return to the labour markets and how to alleviate both the mental and financial burdens of carers. Participants also discussed the use and importance of UK survey data. Within the Modelling Care System Costs and Contributions project in Sustainable Care, we are using a number of different surveys to examine public and private costs of care and the contributions made by individuals, the state and employers to England’s care system. We are also considering the effects of changes to adult social care funding on service users, carers and other stakeholders. It might be interesting to investigate the caring pattern of carers using sequence analysis in order to look at informal caring over the life-course and its implications on the financial and mental burdens for carers. We look forward to sharing the results of this strand of research in due course!

Man in wheelchair with woman touching shoulder smiling

Dr Yanan Zhang

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Dr Yanan Zhang is a post doctoral researcher and is part of the Sustainable Care team based at the University of Birmingham and working with Dr Matt Bennett on Modelling Care System Costs and Contributions. Click the box below to read more about this work package.

Modelling Care System Costs and Contributions


Data for a sustainable care and wellbeing strategy