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Does caring for others affect our mental health?: Evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic

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Article number115721
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/03/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Social Science and Medicine
Number of pages11
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date24/01/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Despite a growing literature about the mental health effects of COVID-19, less is known about the psychological costs of providing informal care during the pandemic. We examined longitudinal data from the UK's Understanding Society Survey, including eight COVID surveys, to estimate fixed effects difference-in-differences models combined with matching, to explore the causal effects of COVID-19 among informal carers. While matching accounts for selection on observables into caregiving, multiple period difference-in-differences specifications allow investigation of heterogeneous mental health effects of COVID-19 by timing and duration of informal care. The estimates suggest that while mental health fluctuated following the imposition of social restrictions, informal carers who started caregiving during the pandemic show the largest mental health deterioration, especially during lockdowns. Policies to mitigate the psychological burden of caregiving might be more effective if targeted at those starting to provide care for the first time.