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

Project summary

This consortium will investigate inequalities in caring from a life course perspective. Increased longevity gains have not been accompanied by an increasing number of years spent disability free, leading to an increased need for care for older people. European countries vary dramatically in how they have met this rising care demand, but across most of Europe the majority of care is provided informally by families, friends, or neighbours. Smaller family sizes, partnership dissolution and women’s strengthening ties to paid work may lead to a diminishing pool of informal carers in the face of increasing need. In addition, delayed childbearing means there are likely to be a growing number of young adults with older parents requiring care, more carers providing care to parents and children simultaneously (sandwich care), as well as a growing number of adult grandchildren caring for surviving grandparents. Moreover, caring is not equally distributed. Women are more likely to provide care, to have provided care for longer and to care more intensively than men, and gender inequality in who provides care is greater in countries that rely on a family-based model. Furthermore, caring itself acts as a form of inequality, limiting access to financial and social resources. Existing evidence suggests that caring leads to labour market exits; reduced working hours, salaries and pension entitlements; loss of training opportunities and career advancement; and is associated with poorer psychological and physical health. However, existing research has largely been based on cross-sectional samples of older-adults or has focussed on care for specific groups, such as dementia sufferers. Additionally, most research on caring has focused on older spouses, or older working age carers, while younger carers are often overlooked in policy and research. Younger caring occurs at a time when young adults are seeking to complete education, establish themselves in the job market and form long-term relationships. Young adult carers are also likely to have fewer financial and socioemotional resources than older carers. We will harness Europe’s longitudinal, population data investments, as well as a wealth of both methodological and substantive experience in a multidisciplinary team of leading European academics and non-academic partners to examine inequalities in employment, social participation and health between carers and non-carers at different life stages, as well as the gender, socioeconomic and ethnic differences in the social, economic and health consequences of caring. Comparisons in these life course care inequalities will be made across European country contexts, with a specific focus on young adult carers as well as those providing care in mid- and later-life. Where data allow, the initial impact of changes in informal care related to the COVID-19 pandemic will also be included. 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.

Project details

EUROCARE participated in the fourth joint call on ‘Equality and Wellbeing across Generations’.

Project duration and budget

Project duration: 36 months
Total costs: €1,472,277.19


  • UCL Epidemiology and Public Health, United Kingdom.
    Prof Anne McMunn
    Dr Rebecca Lacey
    Dr Giorgio Di Gessa
  • Centre d’Estudis Demografics
    Dr Jeroen Spijker
    Mrs Mariona Lozano Riera
    Dr Elisenda Renteria Perez
  • University of Dusseldorf, Germany
    Dr Morten Wahrendorf
    Dr Christian Deindl
  • Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Norway.
    Prof Vegard Skirbekk
    Prof Margarete E. Vollrath
    Prof Ragnhild Bang Nes
    Prof Thomas Hansen