7 eye-opening facts about the UK’s sandwich carers

Grit, determination and patience. Just some of the ingredients needed if you find yourself in the ‘sandwich generation’. In other words, you need to be a tough cookie.

By Geoffrey Chang

Squished in between two layers of the family tree, this part of the population ends up having to care for ageing or sick parents on one side and hyper-active kids on the other. They really are ‘stuck in the middle’.

Bearing the brunt of this double burden takes its toll. As the following facts reveal, these carers are often forced to sacrifice their own quality of life, mental health and financial wellbeing. Since many don’t even identify as carers, we’ll all do well to appreciate the efforts of those who deal with this especially heavy workload.

1.   1.3 million Brits are in the sandwich generation1

A staggering number of people have the dual duty of child-rearing responsibilities and aiding their elderly family members. The majority (62%) are women, making up around 800,000 sandwich carers. The ONS cites increasing life expectancy and more women having children when they’re older as possible factors for this generation squeeze.

2.   1 in 3 report a detrimental effect on their mental health2

Our recent YouGov survey revealed more than a quarter of sandwich carers experience a negative impact on their mental wellbeing. This is backed up by ONS data from the last few years. According to their figures for 2016 to 2017, sandwich carers are “more likely to experience symptoms of mental ill-health – which can include anxiety and depression – than the general population.”

3.   41% say being a carer has affected their free time 2 

Not enough hours in the day? Take a minute to think of the sandwich carers who have double the responsibility and half the time. Too busy caring for others, they often don’t have the time or mental capacity to plan for their own futures, let alone save for retirement.

4.   42% spend 10+ hours a week caring2

Almost half of the UK’s sandwich generation say that they spend 10 or more hours a week caring for someone in their household (children or parents). As sandwich mum, Lucy Downing tells us: “It feels a bit like having a second job on top of your day job, but it’s the only way we know how.” Except, it’s unpaid. And the carers don’t have a choice. It’s a labour of love, literally. After all, they’re family!

5.   Around half don’t self-identify as sandwich carers2

Many need to wake up to the reality that they are carers, even if it may seem like they’re just being a good parent or doing what any good son or daughter would do. That’s partly why the sandwich generation remains largely invisible and under-acknowledged by the rest of society. Just because family’s involved doesn’t mean it’s not caring.

6.   87% don’t have dedicated savings for caring2

When so many don’t identify as ‘carers’, it’s no surprise that a huge majority overlook the need to have separate savings for caring costs. This can leave them vulnerable to unexpected large medical bills and in some cases force them into debt.

7.   1 in 3 say financial support would help2

One-third of sandwich generation parents say financial support would help ease the pressure of caring duties. The good news is that support is out there. If you know someone in the sandwich generation or you care for someone in your family, you may be entitled to financial support. Find out how in our sandwich generation survival guide