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Who cares? A profile of people who care for relatives with a mental disorder

Objective: To profile the Australian adults who are caring for a relative with a mental disorder.

Method: Data came from the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007 (NSMHWB), a nationally representative household survey of 8841 individuals aged between 16 and 85 years.

Results: Many people act as carers: 15% of the Australian adult population, or nearly 2.4 million individuals. The strongest predictors of being a carer are being female and being in a relatively older age bracket. Carers provide a range of emotional and practical supports to close relatives with a range of mental disorders, most notably high prevalence disorders. Their relatives’ health problems cause them considerable worry, anxiety and depression, and their caring role can be associated with high financial costs.

Conclusions: Carers are significant stakeholders in the mental health system. Providing support for carers is crucial, particularly because their own mental health and well-being may be affected by their care-giving role. The nature of this support should take into account their large numbers, their profile and the role they perform.

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Aust N Z J Psychiatry

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