Religious unpaid carers have better health, study finds

By Christian Today |
Josh Appel / Unsplash

Unpaid carers who have a faith are more likely to be in better health than their counterparts who are not religious. 

They are also more likely to report better mental health, prompting calls for faith groups to support unpaid carers in their communities. 

The call comes from Carers UK whose new research found that having a religion or faith can support the health of those who care for the elderly, disabled people, or seriously ill friends or relatives. 

The charity's State of Caring 2023 report found that nearly a third (30%) of unpaid carers with a religion said that their faith improved their health and wellbeing. 

Over a quarter (27%) said they had 'very good' or 'good' mental health, compared to 20% of those who did not identify with a religion. 

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that many unpaid carers in England and Wales have a religious belief, with around half (49%) identifying as Christian. 

The survey by Carers UK was carried out between June and August 2023 and received 10,751 responses from unpaid carers across the country.

Of those surveyed, nearly half (47%) were caring for someone for 90 hours or more a week, while a quarter (24%) spent 20 to 49 hours a week in their caring role. 

Commenting on the findings, Carers UK said that religious or spiritual beliefs may play a valuable role in helping carers to cope with the challenges of caring for others. 

It may also support them in having a more positive and less stressful caring experience, the charity said. 

Carers UK welcomed some of the support already being provided by faith organisations but suggested more could be done after finding that only 7% of carers of faith reported receiving support with their caring role from a faith organisation or place of worship. 

Carers UK said the figures suggested that faith organisations "could play a greater role" in supporting unpaid carers.

Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said: "It's clear that faith plays an important role in the lives of many unpaid carers, increasing their sense of inner strength and connecting them with others. Providing care for an older or disabled relative can be isolating, so having a community to lean on can make a big difference to carers' wellbeing.

"Religious institutions and faith communities could consider the unique challenges facing unpaid carers, and ways they could be supported to engage in religious life, such as creating carer networks, providing opportunities for carers to meet other people, or offering volunteering opportunities that can be fitted around caring responsibilities."

Tina English, Director at Embracing Age, a Christian charity which began offering support to carers feeling isolated during the Covid-19 pandemic, said: "This report highlights the vital role faith organisations can play in supporting unpaid carers.

"As a Christian charity we have seen first-hand the positive impact of bringing carers together to pray and chat with one another, in what can be very challenging circumstances. It's so important that carers are seen and supported in their congregations and communities."

Originally published by Christian Today