The decisive role played by the 15 million caregivers in France

Thursday, 6 october 2022

On the occasion of the National Caregivers Day, BPCE L’Observatoire is publishing the initial results of new research on caregivers in France, almost two years after the publication of its first study.

15 million caregivers
France now has more than 15 million caregivers, a slightly larger number than in 2020. This figure covers all the people who provide assistance to a loved one facing difficulties in their daily lives owing to ill health, disability, or age. This assistance may be given in various ways: help with everyday activities or, alternatively, material, financial or moral support. This assistance is provided at least once a week and represents at least three hours support per week.

Old age remains the principal cause of declining autonomy: the average age of the people assisted is 68, and 39% are over the age of 80. This phenomenon is expected to increase as the generations born during the baby boom grow older. Disabilities represent about one quarter of the situations, particularly in the case of minors and young adults. About one third of the people receiving assistance suffer from chronic or incapacitating diseases (such as diabetes or cancer, etc.). 

These figures reveal the extent of the issue, about which public awareness has increased in recent years: three out of four French people have heard about caregivers, whether from their family or friends, through the media or from other sources.

“Responsibility” and “usefulness”
The first edition of BPCE L’Observatoire published in May 2021 highlighted the caregivers’ ambivalent attitude towards their activities, a finding confirmed in this new survey. There are a number of serious difficulties starting with the mental burden (1st cited), physical fatigue (2nd) and lack of time (3rd). On average, however, caregivers have a positive opinion about their experience: on a scale between -5 (extremely negative) and +5 (extremely positive), 78% of them give a positive rating.

One question in particular illustrates the caregivers’ state of mind. When they were given a list of 10 words to describe how they feel about their role as a caregiver, two terms stand out: “responsibility” and “usefulness.” In general, positive words are cited three times more often than negative ones. But for some caregivers, the words “anxiety,” “helplessness,” and even “guilt” tend to predominate, reflecting situations of great vulnerability calling for a collective response.