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Socio-economic inequalities and health among grandparents: a life-course approach.
Giorgio Di Gessa, Karen Glaser, Anthea Tinker

Last modified: 2015-09-05

Abstract


Background. Few studies to date have investigated the longitudinal relationship between the provision of grandparental childcare and health outcomes using a life-course approach. Previous studies have suggested that older caregivers may be healthier and may have experienced more advantages throughout the life course in comparison to non-caregivers. It is this health advantage rather than grandchild care per se that may influence the association between care and health. This study fills this knowledge gap by taking into account the role of cumulative advantage and disadvantage across the life course in examining the relationship between grandparent childcare and its consequences for health and wellbeing.

Methods. Employing data from waves 1-3 of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe we investigated the associations between intensive and occasional grandchild care and subsequent health controlling for covariates and health at baseline, as well as for socio-economic and health characteristics at childhood and adulthood.

Results. We found that grandparents who looked after grandchildren, whether intensively or non-intensively, experienced health benefits. Even after controlling for earlier life health and socio-economic conditions the relationship between grandparental childcare and health remained positive – especially among grandmothers. Grandfathers who provided intensive grandchild care had only marginally significantly better health in comparison to those who did not provide childcare at baseline.

Conclusion. Our results are important given the widespread provision of grandparental childcare in Europe, although further research on the underlying mechanisms and causal pathways between grandchild care and grandparent health and wellbeing is needed.


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