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BEDREHELSE-Bedre helse og livskvalitet

Inequalities in informal caregiving over the adult life course in Europe: social participation, health and the influence of Covid-19

Alternative title: Ulikheter i uformell omsorgsarbeid i livsløpet til voksner i Europa: sosial deltakelse, helse og påvirkningen av Covid-

Awarded: NOK 2.5 mill.

EUROCARE is a European study on differences in informal care from a life course perspective. Increased life expectancy in the parent generation means more chronic diseases and a greater need for care in older people. Across most of Europe, care is provided informally by the family. Both the parental generation and the younger generation have children later in life. Therefore, more people in the younger and middle-aged generation provide care to parents and their own children at the same time (sandwich-care). It is known from smaller cross-sectional studies that women provide more care than men, and that those with low education and low income provide more care than those with high income. Traditional values, religiosity, and gender equality are also linked to providing care. The same is true for personality traits such as agreeableness and conscientiousness. Providing care over a longer period of time can lead to reduced working hours, lower wages, lower wealth, and lower pensions. It can also lead to poorer quality of life, exhaustion, depression, and family conflicts. Which consequences affecting caregivers the most depend also on the life stage, as well as on other risk and protective factors, for example, social support. These issues have not been examined from a life cycle perspective. We will use several Norwegian and European long-term studies to shed light on this growing societal problem. We will investigate whether social inequalities, gender, and personality affect education, work participation, income, and wealth of younger, middle-aged, and older caregivers. In addition, we will examine whether social inequality and gender affect the psychological consequences of providing care for the quality of life, family conflicts, and mental health in different generations. Finally, we will investigate whether societal characteristics such as traditional values, religiosity, and gender equality affect the social and psychological consequences of providing care.

EUROCARE is a European study about inequalities in caregiving from a life course perspective. Increased longevity has led to a higher need for care for older people. Across most of Europe, the most care is provided informally by families, friends, or neighbors. Smaller family sizes, divorce, and women’s paid work diminish the pool of informal carers. Delayed childbearing in parents means more young adults with old parents or grandparents requiring care and more carers providing care to parents and children simultaneously. Women are more likely to provide care, provide care for a long time, and care more intensively than men. Gender inequality in care providers is greater in countries that rely on a family-based model. Also, caring itself acts as an inequality, limiting financial and social resources. Caring leads to reduced working hours, salaries, and pension entitlements, and poorer mental and physical health. Research so far has been largely cross-sectional or addressed caring for groups with specific diseases. Besides, younger carers are often overlooked in policy and research. Younger caregiving occurs at a time when young adults aim at completing education, finding jobs, and forming long-term relationships. We will harness Europe’s longitudinal population data, as well as the methodological and substantive experience in a multidisciplinary team of European academic and non-academic partners to examine inequities in employment, social participation, and health between carers and non-carers at different life stages. Comparisons will be made across European countries, focusing on those providing care during young adulthood and mid-and later life. Finally, we include a specific research objective and work package focused on working closely with our non-academic partners to translate our results into policy recommendations.

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BEDREHELSE-Bedre helse og livskvalitet