Caring hours and possible need for employment support among primary carers for adults with mental illness: Results from an Australian household survey

Sandra Diminic, Emily Hielscher, Meredith G Harris
Health & Social Care in the Community 2019 July 12
Intensive unpaid caring is associated with greater likelihood of not being employed, but impacts for mental health carers specifically remain unknown. This study aimed to: (a) examine the association between caring intensity and not being employed for primary mental health carers, (b) ascertain whether this relationship differs from that for other disability carers, (c) enumerate Australian primary mental health carers with a possible need for employment support and (d) describe these carers' unmet support needs and barriers to employment. Co-resident, working age primary mental health (n = 137) and other disability carers (n = 821) were identified in the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (collected July-December 2015). Multiple logistic regression analyses examined associations between levels of caring intensity (1-9, 10-19, 20-39, 40+ hr/week) and not being employed. A 'possible need for employment support' indicator was derived from information about current employment status, caring hours, past impact of caring on employment and desire for more work or workplace accommodations. After controlling for demographic and caring role factors, mental health carers providing 40+ hr of care weekly had greater odds of not being employed compared to carers providing <10 hr (AOR 13.38, 95% CI: 2.17-82.39). For other disability carers, the odds of not being employed were also higher among those providing 20-39 hr of care (AOR 3.21, 95% CI: 2.18-4.73). An estimated 54.1% (95% CI: 43.1-64.8) of carers had a possible need for employment support, with the proportion increasing as level of caring intensity increased. Of carers who were not employed, 42.2% (95% CI: 30.3-55.0) reported a desire to work, and the main reported barrier was no alternative care arrangements or disruption to the person supported. Findings suggest that improving employment participation for mental health carers requires a greater balance between unpaid care and access to formal services for people with mental illness.

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