The Health Impact of Intensive and Nonintensive Grandchild Care in Europe: New Evidence From SHARE

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2016 Sep;71(5):867-79. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbv055. Epub 2015 Aug 26.


Objectives: Grandparents are an important source of childcare. However, caring for grandchildren may affect grandparents' health in both positive and negative ways. Our study examines the association between grandparental childcare and grandparents' health at 2- and 4-year follow-up.

Method: Our study is based on grandparents aged 50 and older from Waves 1-4 of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Using multivariate analyses, we investigated associations between intensive and nonintensive grandparental childcare at Wave 2 and subsequent health (self-rated health, depressive symptoms, and disability) controlling for covariates and health at baseline. Associations between changes over time in grandparental childcare and health at follow-up were also explored. Multiple imputation techniques and sensitivity analyses were undertaken to investigate possible biases arising from sample attrition.

Results: Grandparents looking after grandchildren, whether intensively or nonintensively, experienced some health benefits. Associations strengthened when attrition was accounted for, particularly if it is assumed that those who dropped out of the study were in poor health.

Discussion: Our results show better health among grandparents who provided grandchild care in the European countries studied. These results are important given the widespread provision of grandchild care in Europe.

Keywords: Depressive symptoms; Disability; Europe; Grandparenting; Health; Longitudinal; SHARE; Self-rated health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Child
  • Child Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Rearing*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Grandparents*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged