One in three long-term carers have not had a day off in five years, according to a new report.
Among those who have been caring for a year or more, 40% have not had a day off for more than 12 months, according to the study.
The report, from the charity Carers UK, warned that people were at “breaking point” due to the lack of support they receive, while some have seen a cut in the social care offered to them.
The study comes as new figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 8% of the UK private household population are informal carers for another person. Of these, 59% are female and 29% spend 35 hours a week or more on caring. This is often on top of holding down a job.
In the Carers UK report, 68% of current carers who have been caring for more than a year and have not had a day off for over a year say their physical health has worsened, while 72% said their mental health has suffered.
The charity’s report, State of Caring 2017, also found that carers most frequently listed access to breaks as the factor which could make a difference in their lives.
When asked about barriers that stop them taking a break, 31% said they worried about the cost of care while they had a break, 31% said the person they care for is unwilling to accept care from others and 27% said there was a lack of specialist support on offer. A fifth had low confidence in the quality of care available.
Helena Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “More and more of us are stepping in to provide care and support to loved ones and doing so for more hours every week.
“Without access to breaks, carers can quickly reach breaking point, unable to look after their own health, nurture relationships with friends and family or have the time they need to themselves.
“Our research shows that carers are struggling to get a break because appropriate support for their loved ones isn’t available or services they rely on are being cut or charged for.”
Ms Herklots said there is an “urgent” need for a government action plan on improving support for carers.
“Increasing funding for carers’ breaks is a key part of the change needed to support people to care without putting their own lives on hold,” she said.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Carers do an incredible job supporting others and we want to make sure they feel supported too.
“That’s why we gave carers more rights through the Care Act and the Better Care Fund includes #130 million to fund carers’ breaks.
“We are committed to improving social care which is why we will consult later this year and put it on a stable footing for the future.”