Around half of carers in England have health problems brought on by their caring role, show figures released by the NHS Information Centre.
The survey, which issued limited provisional results in June this year, involved interviews with more than 2400 carers in England between May 2009 and April 2010.
The survey findings indicate that 12% of people over the age of 16 were looking after/giving specialist help to a sick, disabled or elderly person in 2009/10, equivalent to 5 million people.
Some 6% of adults in England are caring for someone who lived with them and a further 6% are caring for someone who lived elsewhere. In all, 15% of households in England contain a carer.
Six out of ten carers are women, and while most are likely to be middle aged, one in four are over the age of 65. Three in five anticipate the amount of time they spend caring will increase over the next five years.
Just over half of those surveyed say that their caring role had affected their health.
One in three carers say that their caring role tires them out and just over one in five say their duties make them short-tempered or irritable. One in four sleep badly, and 29% feel stressed.
New findings show that although four fifths of carers say their quality of life is good, this is less common among those providing more than 20 hours of support per week, of whom just over seven out of ten say this.
Two in five carers say caring responsibilities affect their personal relationships, social life or leisure time. Of those affected, nearly seven in ten say they had less time for leisure activities, and nearly a third say they are too tired to go out. Just under one in four are unable to go on holiday.
Just over 25% of carers of working age say caring affects their ability to take up or stay in employment. Less than one in five of all carers were aware of the right to request flexible working hours.
Just over a quarter have been caring for the same person for at least 10 years and just under one in ten have been caring for more than 20 years.
The survey also shows that around one in ten (11%) carers receive Carer’s Allowance, with the figure rising to just under a quarter for those in a caring role for more than 35 hours a week.
But earlier this month the charity Carers UK reported that an estimated 300,000 carers were missing out on a total of £840 million worth of Carer’s Allowance each year.
Imelda Redmond, CBE, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Around 2.3 million people become carers every year, and we hear from families who are simply not told about the support that is there for them.”
She added: “Many also don’t see themselves as carers, but as mothers, sons, partners and friends looking after ill or disabled loved ones. As a result, they miss out on support and end up caring round the clock without a break, and struggling to pay even basic food and heating bills.”