Grandparents’ Mental Health Suffered During Lockdown

In November and December 2020, over a third (34.3%) of grandparents who stopped looking after their grandchildren throughout the first 9 months of the pandemic reported high levels of depressive symptoms, such as feeling sad or having restless sleep, compared to 26% of those who continued to look after grandchildren. They also reported lower life satisfaction, and a lower quality of life.

The researchers were able to account for pre-pandemic mental and physical health, socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, as well as social contacts with family and friends and loneliness during the pandemic to better understand if the relationships observed between reduction in grandchild care provision and poorer mental health were driven by pre-existing conditions or socioeconomic adversity.


Lead author Dr Giorgio Di Gessa (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care) said: “Grandparents who were unable to see and spend time with their grandchildren for reasons beyond their control might have been frustrated and distressed about it, leading to negative consequences for their mental health.

“Looking after grandchildren may provide grandparents with emotional gratification and a sense of usefulness and competence, thereby enhancing life satisfaction. Grandparents’ involvement in such a family activity may also provide them with a sense of value and attachment, thereby strengthening intergenerational relationships and positive emotional exchanges that might benefit their mental health”.

Co-author Dr Bruno Arpino (University of Florence) said: “We know from previous studies that the pandemic and policies restricting human interaction have posed a greater risk to mental health and well-being. Few studies, however, have so far looked at grandparents despite their vital role in family life and the potential health benefits for grandparents to look after grandchildren”.

Co-author Dr Valeria Bordone (University of Vienna) added: “If physical distancing policies remain a core strategy to protect individuals at higher risk from COVID-19 variants or indeed in a future pandemic, attention should be paid to addressing the mental health and wider needs of older people who may suffer from the loss of meaningful roles in their family and society.”

ELSA is supported by the National Institute on Aging and a consortium of UK Government departments coordinated by the National Institute for Health Research.

Source: Eurekalert

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