European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 31–45 | Cite as

Children’s impact on the mental health of their older mothers and fathers: findings from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe

  • Isabella BuberEmail author
  • Henriette Engelhardt
Original Investigation


The relation between social support and mental health has been thoroughly researched and structural characteristics of the social network have been widely recognised as being an important component of social support. The aim of this paper is to clarify the association between children and depressive mood states of their older parents. Based on international comparative data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe we analysed how the number of children, their proximity and the frequency of contact between older parents and their children are associated with the mental health of older people, using the EURO-D index. Our results indicate a positive association of children and depressive mood since childless men and women report more depressive symptoms. Moreover, few contacts with children were associated with an increased number of depressive symptoms. The family status was related to mental health as well: older men and women living with a spouse or partner had the lowest levels of depression. Interestingly, the presence of a spouse or partner was more relevant for the mental health of older people than the presence of, or contact with, their children.


Mental health Older mothers and fathers Children SHARE EURO-D 



We would like to thank Michael Dewey, Karsten Hank and Hi Yeung Tsang for helpful comments on an earlier draft and are indebted to Sylvia Trnka, our language editor. Moreover, we are indebted to the editor Hans-Werner Wahl and to two anonymous reviewers for valuable suggestions and remarks.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vienna Institute of DemographyAustrian Academy of SciencesViennaAustria
  2. 2.Otto-Friedrich-University of BambergBambergGermany

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