Social Indicators Research

, Volume 130, Issue 1, pp 305–323 | Cite as

Lifetime Childlessness, Depressive Mood and Quality of Life Among Older Europeans

  • Sarah Gibney
  • Liam DelaneyEmail author
  • Mary Codd
  • Tony Fahey


Lifetime childlessness has increased in Europe. The relationship between childlessness and psychological wellbeing varies by the wellbeing measures employed, life stage and societal context. Health-related predictors of childlessness (health selection) may mediate the relationship between childlessness and wellbeing and/or influence wellbeing directly. This paper examines the relationship between lifetime childlessness, depressive mood and quality of life in early old age using data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) (N = 21,295). Region-specific Ordinary Least Squares Analysis is performed to investigate this relationship and the mediating roles of health selection and marital status are explored. No main effect of childlessness is observed in any of the regions net of socio-demographic, economic and health factors. The significant role of health selection in this relationship is only evident in Eastern Europe. The findings of this study support a more in-depth analysis of the role of marital status in mediating the relationship between childlessness and psychological wellbeing. Consistent relationships between marital status and both measures of wellbeing support further analysis of marital selection in this regard.


Well-being Ageing Childlessness 



The authors gratefully acknowledge funding from the Health Research Board, Ireland. This paper uses data from SHARELIFE release 1, as of November 24th 2010 and SHARE release 2.3.1, as of July 29th 2010. The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th framework programme (project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life), through the 6th framework programme (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005-028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and through the 7th framework programme (SHARE-PREP, 211909 and SHARE-LEAP, 227822). Additional funding from the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, Y1-AG-4553-01 and OGHA04-064, IAG BSR06-11, R21 AG025169) as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see for a full list of funding institutions).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Gibney
    • 1
  • Liam Delaney
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mary Codd
    • 3
  • Tony Fahey
    • 4
  1. 1.Geary InstituteUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  2. 2.Behavioural Science Centre, Stirling Management SchoolUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK
  3. 3.School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population ScienceUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  4. 4.School of Applied Social ScienceUniversity College DublinDublinIreland

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