Family carers provide more care than the combined efforts of the NHS and social services departments, and their value to the economy is estimated to be around £34 billion a year (Hirst, 1999). However, many carers have health problems of their own. Using three standardised measures to screen for activity limitation (ADLs), depression (GHQ-28) and health related quality of life (HRQoL) (SF36), a study of carers of people aged 75 and over referred consecutively to social services departments in adjacent inner city areas showed a high prevalence of limitations in activities of daily living (ADLs), that a substantial proportion (42 per cent) had GHQ-28 scores high enough to suggest depression and their scores on the SF-36 showed that many carers were low in vitality and tired. Co-resident carers had poorer psychological health and more difficulties with social functioning than non-resident carers, and were older, but were not significantly different in self-reported physical health. Whether carers wanted the cared-for person to remain at home for as long as possible depended on their relationship (spouse or not) and whether the older person was depressed. The carer’s own psychological health was not related to their attitude to institutional care. The study suggests that targeting social care resources on carers showing psychological distress may not reduce downstream expenditure on long-term care.