Nearly 70,000 carers operate in Northern Ireland, but much of their work goes unseen, campaigners have warned.
According to research by Carers UK, half of people here believe they do not know anyone who acts as a carer.
In reality, however, almost 10% of the local population work in this capacity.
The report found that people consistently underestimated the number of carers in their family, friendship groups and places of work.
Carers UK found that almost half — 47% — believed they did know a single family member or friend who was a carer.
Just 25% of workers, meanwhile, said they knew a colleague who looked after someone.
In reality, nearly 10% of the local population are carers, and 11% of the UK workforce juggle a paid job with caring.
Clare-Anne Magee, from Carers NI, said around 69,000 people in Northern Ireland stepped into caring roles each year.
“Carers all too often remain hidden in plain sight at work, in friendships and even in families,” she added.
“Often, we see ourselves as parents, husbands, wives and children doing our ‘duty’.
“Sometimes, it takes somebody else to tell us that we are a carer before we recognise ourselves as such.
“We are encouraging every member of the public to learn more about caring and where to go for advice and assistance.
“As a society, we need to do more to identify and support carers in communities, so that we can alleviate some of the emotional and practical challenges facing the 69,000 people looking after an ill, older or disabled loved one in Northern Ireland.”
The poll found Northern Ireland was the least confident region when it came to supporting carers, with only 54% feeling confident in providing emotional support, compared to the UK average of 67%.
Even fewer local people felt confident directing carers to practical support, with just 35% reporting confidence.
The findings of the research come one year after Carers UK’s Missing Out report showed that the impact of carers across the UK not being identified quickly enough.
Amongst carers who struggled to recognise their roles, half saw their finances and mental health negatively affected.