Physical and mental health status of American grandparents providing extensive child care to their grandchildren

J Am Med Womens Assoc (1972). 2001 Fall;56(4):199-205.


Objective: to compare the physical, mental, and functional health status of grandparents providing extensive care to grandchildren (30+ hours per week or 90+ nights per year) with that of custodial grandparents, noncaregivers, and two categories of less intensive care providers.

Methods: Data on a subsample of 3260 respondents to the National Survey of Families and Households who reported being grandparents during the 1992 to 1994 interviews were analyzed. Chi-square tests, 1-way ANOVAs, and multiple regression analyses compared self-reported functional health limitations, depressive symptoms, and change in self-reported health status and depression for extensive caregivers (223), custodial grandparents (173), and 3 other types of grandparents providing less or no child care.

Results: Extensive caregivers had levels of depressive symptoms comparable to those of custodial caregivers and significantly higher than those of noncaregivers and less intense care providers. One in 5 extensive caregivers had clinically relevant levels of depressive symptoms. Two out of every 5 extensive caregivers had at least 1 limitation in activities of daily living.

Conclusions: Providing extensive care for a grandchild was associated with elevated levels of depression. Physicians should be alert to family role changes and symptoms of depression in their older patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Child Care*
  • Depression*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • United States