Does grandparental investment improve health and well-being of older Europeans?

Mirkka Danielsbacka, Antti O. Tanskanen, David A. Coall & Markus Jokela


Previous studies suggest active grandparenting is associated with reduced morbidity and mortality. However, limited information on the causal nature of this association exists. Here, we used data from the longitudinal Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) of people aged 50 and above across 11 countries including follow-up waves between 2004 and 2015 (n = 41,713 person-observations from 24,787 people). Subjective health and well-being were measured according to self-rated health, difficulties with activities of daily living (ADLs), depressive symptoms, life satisfaction and meaning of life scores. Across all analyses, active grandparenting, measured as childcare assistance provided by older adults to their adult children, was associated with increased health and well-being. However, these associations were largely accounted for by between-person differences. Fewer ADL limitations for grandparents who provided childcare assistance was the only association that remained in the within-individual analyses. This association increased in strength when the sample was limited to participants with all data waves. These findings suggest the association between grandchild care and grandparental well-being may be specific to physical rather than cognitive factors. The results are discussed with regard to evolutionary psychology assumption of altruistic behavior and positive health outcomes for the helper.

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