Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 745–778 | Cite as

Is caring for older parents detrimental to women’s mental health? The role of the European North–South gradient

  • Elenka Brenna
  • Cinzia Di Novi


In the last decades, both the lengthening of life expectancy and an accentuated decline in birth rates have reduced the consistency of the younger generational cohorts. Due to an ageing population, the burden of caregiving is expected to intensify in the next quarter of the century in Europe, especially for mature women. This paper investigates the impact of the provision of constant care for older parents on the mental health of adult daughters, between the ages of 50 and 75, living in different European countries. Data is drawn from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. Information on mental health status is provided by Euro-D depression scale, a measure of depression standardized across European countries. We focus on differences in the effects according to the North–South gradient: we test whether the relationship between informal caregiving and mental health differs across European macro-regions. Our results, robust under different specifications of the propensity score model, reveal a clear North–South gradient: the provision of informal care has a negative and significant impact on daughters’ mental health in the Mediterranean countries only, where the amount of resources allocated to the Long Term Care is minimal and the local system of health and social services for the elderly lacks the necessary structures to meet the increasing demand for eldercare.


Caregiver burden Depression Parent care LTC systems Mature women 

JEL Classification

I10 I12 D10 



An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Italian Health Economics Association (AIES), Trento, Italy, at the International Health Economics Association (iHEA) annual conference, Milan, Italy, at the European Federation of Retired and Older Persons (FERPA) Annual Conference, Bruxelles, Belgium, at XII Workshop of Public Economics at Regional and Local Level (PEARL), Alessandria, Italy, and at seminars at the University of Lugano, Marche Polytechnic University, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. The authors thank the conference and seminar participants for their detailed and helpful comments. The authors also thank Andrea Albarea, Silvia Balia, Vincenzo Carrieri, Alberto Cassone, Claudio Lucifora, Fabrizio Mazzonna, Giacomo Pasini, Elisabetta Trevisan, Francesca Zantomio for useful suggestions. Financial support provided by Fondazione FarmaFactoring (Milan) for this research project is gratefully acknowledged. The authors also wish to thank the editors and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. The usual disclaimer applies.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 85 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economic and FinanceCatholic University of the Sacred HeartMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsCa’ Foscari University of VeniceVeniceItaly

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