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Arch Fam Med. 1997 Sep-Oct;6(5):445-52.

Depression in grandparents raising grandchildren: results of a national longitudinal study.

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School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley 94720-7360, USA.



To assess the effect of undertaking custodial care of a grandchild on grandparents' depression levels and to determine what characteristics are associated with higher depression levels among caregiving grandparents.


A longitudinal national probability panel study: the National Survey of Families and Households. The first wave of data (n= 13 008) was collected in 1987 and 1988, and the second wave of data (n=10008) was collected from 1992 through 1994.


The survey was conducted in respondents' households in the coterminous United States.


The subsample for this study was composed of 3111 respondents who reported being grandparents during the 1992-1994 interviews and for whom complete depression information was available. Of these grandparents, 158 were the primary caregivers for their grandchildren in the 1990s.


Depression was measured using a modified version of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale.


Those who provide primary care for a grandchild are almost twice as likely to have levels of depressive symptoms above the traditional Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale cut point of 16 (25.1% vs 14.5%). Even when controlling for baseline depression and demographic variables known to affect depressive symptoms, undertaking the care of a grandchild was associated significantly with higher depression levels in a multivariate prospective analysis (P<.01). Among caregiving grandparents, those who recently assumed caregiving responsibilities (P<.05) and women (P<.10) were more depressed and older respondents (P<.10) and those in good health (P<.001) were less depressed.


Undertaking the primary care of a grandchild is associated with an increase in levels of depression. Particularly in light of the recent dramatic increase in the prevalence of grandparent caregiving in the United States, physicians need to explore familial role changes with midlife and older patients who have symptoms of depression. Special attention should be paid to the most at-risk subsets of grandparent caregivers: those who are new caregivers, those in poor health, those who are younger, and women.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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