New Study Shows 60% Of First-Time Caregivers Are Gen Z or Millennials

Forbes Deb Gordon Contributor Feb 20, 2021

Alex Hernandez was 26 years old in 2014 when her mother was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. On a visit home to Mexico, Hernandez realized her mother’s condition was bleak. She made a split decision to pause her life in Dallas. She quit her job, broke her lease, and spent the better part of the next year caring for her mother. 

Hernandez’s story has become increasingly common as Covid-19 thrusts more young adults into unpaid caregiving roles. 

In the new Global Carer Well-Being Index from Embracing Carers, 25% of Gen Z and Millennial caregivers were in caregiving roles for the first time during the pandemic, compared with 15% of Gen X and Boomer caregivers. Overall, 20% of caregivers surveyed were new to caregiving and 60% of them were Gen Z or Millennials.

Caregiving has gotten more difficult for everyone in the pandemic, but it’s been especially hard on young people. In the survey, 72% of Gen Z caregivers in the U.S. said their emotional or mental health had worsened.

The stereotypical image of a family caregiver—a 48-year-old woman with school-aged children and aging parents—needs to change, according to Lisa Winstel, chief operating officer of Caregiver Action Network, an advisor to Embracing Carers. 

“It’s incumbent on us to be more inclusive when we discuss who’s a caregiver,” Winstel said. A 24-year-old caregiver who moves home after graduate school instead of finding a job needs just as much support as a 65-year-old woman caring for her husband with COPD, said Winstel.

But young caregivers often don’t get the support they need. Of 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed, 95% said they could use help navigating the system to make sure they are providing proper care. 

Navigating the workplace can be especially challenging for Gen Z caregivers in the U.S. Seventy-one percent said they don’t feel their employer supports them and 70% fear they’ll lose their job because of their caregiving responsibilities, more than any other age group. 

Despite the burdens of caregiving, 91% of Millennials in the U.S. were the most likely group to say caregiving was rewarding.

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