More than a million people in the UK are providing care for a sick, elderly or disabled person for more than 50 hours a week, figures have revealed.
One in five of the five million adults who assume the role of carer, either for a vulnerable friend or relative, are working what is considered to be a busy full-time week, with nearly half of carers known to local authorities aged over 65.
Nearly a third (30%) provide care for more than 35 hours a week, while a further 48% put in more than 20 hours of care every week, according to figures from the NHS Information Centre.
The proportion of young carers working a full working week of 50 hours or more has doubled in the past nine years, increasing from 10% to 22%.
NHS Information Centre chief executive, Tim Straughan, said the majority of carers are women from a white ethnic background.
"Social care is a broad and complex area in this country and these figures are important, as they help both social care professionals and the wider community understand the impact that caring has on our society," he said.
"I have cared for parents all of my life. When I was in my teens in the 1970s my mum was chronically ill. I was the oldest of 3 girls & we cared for her as our dad was working from 7.30-4.30. we were young carers. We had our jobs to do before going to school & on returning. Now my dad is in his late 80s & again we are caring for him & trying to work full-time. He still lives on his own but I put him to bed every night. I wash every day for him as he has prostate problems, I take him to hospital appointments, shop, sort out problems. The aspect that is wearing me out is the emotional tiredness. My dad was a quiet, dignified man who didn't show emotion & whom I never saw naked when I was a child. I find him so hard to care for at times. I hate what is happening to him, the change of roles, I'm the parent, he's like the child. I really want my dad back!!" - Kate Kilgallon, North-east England