The Time Cost of Adult Care

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

October 20, 2005


Extensive small scale studies have documented that when people assume the role of assisting an adult with impairments or an older person, care activities account for a significant portion of their daily routines. Nevertheless, little research has investigated the problem of measuring the time that carers spend in care related activities. This paper contrasts two different measures of care time - an estimated average weekly hours question in the 1998 Australian Survey of Disability Ageing and Carers, and diary estimates from the 1997 national Australian Time Use Study. This study finds that diaries provide a more robust estimate, but only after one models the time use patterns in the days of carers to identify care-related activities which diarists do not necessarily record as care. Such a measure of care time reveals that even people who provide only occasional assistance to an adult with impairments tend to spend the equivalent of more than 10 minutes a day providing care. Most carergivers undertake the equivalent of a part-time job to help a friend of family member. Summing the average caregiving time provided by all household members reveals that over a quarter of Australian households caring for an adult member provide the equivalent of a full-time employee's labour, and another quarter work between 20 and 39 total weekly hours to provide informal care.

Published in

Electronic International Journal of Time Use Research

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 2 , p.54 -67




Held online ASL -



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest