Authors: Dr Neil Kaye, UCL Research Fellow and Rob Davies, Head of Policy and Dialogue

Reviewers: Professor Emla Fitzsimons, Interim Director and Jon Tebbett, Project Manager

  1. About us:

1.1  CLOSER[1], the home of longitudinal research, is the interdisciplinary partnership of leading social and biomedical longitudinal population studies, the UK Data Service and The British Library. Our mission is to increase the visibility, use and impact of longitudinal population studies, data and research.

1.2  Our studies[2] comprise of both national and regional longitudinal population studies from across the UK. They include the British Birth Cohort Studies, ONS Longitudinal Study, English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, Born in Bradford, Southampton Women’s Survey, Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, Generation Scotland, Understanding Society – the UK Household Longitudinal Study, and more.

1.3  CLOSER has been funded by the UKRI Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) since 2012 and is based at the UCL Social Research Institute.

  1. Our reason for submitting evidence:

2.1  CLOSER represents multiple longitudinal population studies across the UK. These national scientific assets follow the same people and households over time, often from birth, collecting a wide array of data and information about study participants, which enable researchers and policymakers to explore people’s complex lives and how changes in society affect health, community and education. By collecting data at intervals from the same people over their lives, these studies are continuously building an ever-richer data resource that captures how life in the UK changes over time and how events and exposures have long-term impacts.

2.2  Longitudinal population studies are recognised as vital sources of evidence on how early circumstances and experiences affect people’s lives from childhood to adulthood, providing insights into individual short and long-term change and the relationship between different elements of people’s complex lives that cannot be obtained from any other data sources. They allow researchers to explore how different groups vary, and how and why people’s lives change, enabling a greater understanding of the difference between causal relationships and correlation.

2.3  Several UK longitudinal population studies ask their participants questions related to care provision, which has enabled us to look at research across multiple studies to inform our evidence submission. Our submission draws on research using the following longitudinal population studies:

2.4  A full list of research papers used to inform this evidence submission can be found in Annex 1.


  1. Key messages:

The invisibility of adult social care and its consequences:

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on carers:

Better support for unpaid carers:

The future of adult social care:


  1. Evidence and insights on adult social care from UK longitudinal population studies:
  1. The invisibility of adult social care:

“The Care Act (2014) conceptualises needs in terms of outcomes (e.g., hygiene, toileting, education) and the impacts that not meeting those outcomes would have on an individual's daily life. Such a conceptualisation does not explicitly translate to frequency of social care support provision required” [2]

  1. Future of adult social care:


  1. Intergenerational adult social care:


  1. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic:

“Our results clearly demonstrate that the mental health of home-carers, which was already poor pre-pandemic, has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and associated mitigation measures.” [6]

“Worse outcomes were associated with poor sleep quality, attempted suicide at baseline [at age 17, just pre-pandemic], low social support, and a strong feeling of loneliness during the pandemic. These factors were significantly more likely to be observed among adolescent carers than noncarers.” [7]


  1. Local authority/public investment in adult social care:

Although local authorities in England have a duty to support unpaid carers whose employment is at risk, there is little evidence that they do so to any great extent” [9]

The finding that the costs of ‘replacement care’ for working carers are lower than the costs of carers leaving employment suggests that it would be cost-effective for the government to provide ‘replacement care’ services to working carers. … [T]he savings would amount to £1,233 a year per carer.[11] 


  1. Effect of informal care provision on employment:

“…gender differences in the effects of unpaid care provision on employment are likely to be attributable to various factors. On the one hand, men who provide care for long hours may be particularly likely to leave the labour market because men are more likely to work full-time than women, and unpaid care provision is more compatible with part-time employment. On the other hand, midlife women who start providing care for long hours may [have been] particularly likely to take early retirement [before the equalization of the state retirement age].” [9]


  1. Carers’ mental health and support:

“…while caring was generally not significantly associated with wellbeing… [w]hen carers in this study were divided between those who felt appreciated for their caring and those who did not, however, caring became significantly associated with each of the wellbeing outcomes including life satisfaction, depression and quality of life.” [16]

“Importantly this paper has shown the importance of recognising the entire caregiving journey, from its beginning to end, and advocates the importance of taking a holistic approach to policies on informal care.” [17]

“Policy concerns about the supply of social care increasingly refer to the ‘mix’ between informal, formal state and formal paid-for sources of support, and the need to strike a balance between public and private resources in the context of an ageing population.” [18]



27 May 2022


Annex 1: Research papers used to inform this evidence submission

[1] Rutherford, A. C., & Bu, F. (2018). Issues with the measurement of informal care in social surveys: evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Ageing & Society, 38(12), 2541-2559.

[2] Willis, R., Channon, A. A., Viana, J., LaValle, M. H., & Hutchinson, A. (2019). Resurrecting the interval of need concept to improve dialogue between researchers, policymakers, and social care practitioners. Health & Social Care in the Community, 27(5), 1271-1282.

[3] Kingston, A., Comas-Herrera, A., & Jagger, C. (2018). Forecasting the care needs of the older population in England over the next 20 years: estimates from the Population Ageing and Care Simulation (PACSim) modelling study. The Lancet Public Health, 3(9), e447-e455.

[4] Evandrou, M., Falkingham, J., Gomez-Leon, M., & Vlachantoni, A. (2018). Intergenerational flows of support between parents and adult children in Britain. Ageing & Society, 38(2), 321-351.

[5] Gomez-Leon, M., Evandrou, M., Falkingham, J., & Vlachantoni, A. (2019). The dynamics of social care and employment in mid-life. Ageing & Society, 39(2), 381-408.

[6] Whitley, E., Reeve, K., & Benzeval, M. (2021). Tracking the mental health of home-carers during the first COVID-19 national lockdown: evidence from a nationally representative UK survey. Psychological medicine, 1-10.

[7] Nakanishi, M., Richards, M., Stanyon, D., Yamasaki, S., Endo, K., Sakai, M., ... & Nishida, A. (2022). Adolescent Carers' Psychological Symptoms and Mental Well-being During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Longitudinal Study Using Data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 70(6), 877-884.

[8] Iparraguirre, J. L. (2020a). Reductions in local government spending on community-based social care and unmet social care needs of older people in England. The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, 17, 100126.

[9] King, D., & Pickard, L. (2013). When is a carer’s employment at risk? Longitudinal analysis of unpaid care and employment in midlife in England. Health & Social Care in the Community, 21(3), 303-314.

[10] Wu, Y. T., Prina, M., & Matthews, F. (2022). The availability of local primary care services, satisfaction with health services and self-rated health in older English adults: A population-based study. Preventive Medicine Reports, 27, 101786.

[11] Pickard, L. (2019). Good value for money? Public investment in ‘replacement care’ for working carers in England. Social Policy and Society, 18(3), 365-382.

[12] Vlachantoni, A., Wang, N., Feng, Z., & Falkingham, J. (2021). Informal Care Provision and the Reduction of Economic Activity Among Mid-Life Carers in Great Britain–A Mixed-Methods Approach. Social Policy and Society, 1-18.

[13] Iparraguirre, J. (2020b). Household composition and the dynamics of community-based social care in England. Ageing & Society, 40(8), 1631-1646.

[14] Rafnsson, S. B., Shankar, A., & Steptoe, A. (2017). Informal caregiving transitions, subjective well-being and depressed mood: Findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Aging & Mental Health, 21(1), 104-112.

[15] Vlachantoni, A., Feng, Z., Wang, N., & Evandrou, M. (2020). Social participation and health outcomes among caregivers and non-caregivers in Great Britain. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 39(12), 1313-1322.

[16] McMunn, A., Nazroo, J., Wahrendorf, M., Breeze, E., & Zaninotto, P. (2009). Participation in socially-productive activities, reciprocity and wellbeing in later life: baseline results in England. Ageing & Society, 29(5), 765-782.

[17] Palmer, M. F. (2022). Associations of discontinuation of care: A longitudinal analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Health & Social Care in the Community, 30(2), e445-e460.

[18] Vlachantoni, A., Shaw, R. J., Evandrou, M., & Falkingham, J. (2015). The determinants of receiving social care in later life in England. Ageing & Society, 35(2), 321-345.





[3] The provision of paid services to people cared for by working carers.