Number of children and later-life depression in Eastern and Western Europe

Thijs van den Broek, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Emily Grundy, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Katherine Keenan, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

We use cross-sectional and longitudinal data from the Gender and Generations Surveys to investigate associations between number of children and depressive symptoms among adults aged 65-80 in five Eastern and three Western European countries. We also investigate whether exchanges of emotional and financial support mediate links between number of children and depression and analyse changes in depression in a subset of countries with longitudinal data. We hypothesised that links between having children and depression might be stronger in the Eastern compared with the Western European countries we consider because of higher mortality (and so higher prevalence of widowhood in particular) and the reduction of state supports for older people following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Preliminary results lend some support to this hypothesis as we found that having no or only one child was associated with higher risks of depression for men in Eastern, but not Western, European countries. However there were no significant differences in associations for women. As in previous studies, we found that long-term illness, low education and difficulties making endings meet were associated with higher chance of depression. Results from the longitudinal analysis suggested that involvement in caring for children was protective against depression among men.

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 Presented in Session 41. Mental well-being of older adults