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The association between grandparenthood and mortality


  • Christiansen, Solveig Glestad


Few studies have so far enquired into the relationship between being a grandparent and health and mortality outcomes, and the majority of these have looked exclusively at grandparents who take over parenting responsibility for their grandchildren. This study aims to fill this gap in the knowledge of how family structure is linked to mortality by focusing on whether being a grandparent in itself is associated with mortality. Norwegian parents in the age groups 40–73 are analysed using register data that encompass the entire population. The analysis is based on discrete-time hazard models, estimated for the years 1980–2008. I find a mortality disadvantage of being a grandfather, which is particularly strong for those who become grandfathers at an early age. Controlling for characteristics of the middle generation such as sex, education and marital status does not remove the association. For men the mortality disadvantage is not influenced by the number of grandchildren or the number of sets of grandchildren. For women there is significantly higher mortality only for those who become grandmothers in their thirties or forties, who are married or who have many children. Becoming a grandmother after age 50 is associated with significantly lower mortality. At least part of these associations are likely due to selection effects, however they may also to some extent be caused by the individuals' relationship with grandchildren, and children who have become parents themselves.

Suggested Citation

  • Christiansen, Solveig Glestad, 2014. "The association between grandparenthood and mortality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 89-96.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:118:y:2014:i:c:p:89-96
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.07.061

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mary Elizabeth Hughes & Linda J. Waite & Tracey A. LaPierre & Ye Luo, 2007. "All in the Family: The Impact of Caring for Grandchildren on Grandparents' Health," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 62(2), pages 108-119.
    2. Zachary Zimmer & Linda Martin & Mary Ofstedal & Yi-Li Chuang, 2007. "Education of adult children and mortality of their elderly parents in Taiwan," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 44(2), pages 289-305, May.
    3. Jenny Torssander, 2013. "From Child to Parent? The Significance of Children’s Education for Their Parents’ Longevity," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(2), pages 637-659, April.
    4. Donald C. Reitzes & Elizabeth J. Mutran, 2004. "Grandparenthood: Factors Influencing Frequency of Grandparent–Grandchildren Contact and Grandparent Role Satisfaction," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 59(1), pages 9-16.
    5. Jan M. Hoem & Gerda Neyer & Gunnar Andersson, 2006. "Educational attainment and ultimate fertility among Swedish women born in 1955-59," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 14(16), pages 381-404.
    6. Jan M. Hoem & Gerda R. Neyer & Gunnar Andersson, 2006. "Educational attainment and ultimate fertility among Swedish women born in 1955-59," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2006-004, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    7. Grundy, Emily & Kravdal, Øystein, 2010. "Fertility history and cause-specific mortality: A register-based analysis of complete cohorts of Norwegian women and men," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(11), pages 1847-1857, June.
    8. Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2011. "Life Satisfaction and Grandparenthood: Evidence from a Nationwide Survey," IZA Discussion Papers 5869, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Hilbrand, Sonja & Coall, David A. & Meyer, Andrea H. & Gerstorf, Denis & Hertwig, Ralph, 2017. "A prospective study of associations among helping, health, and longevity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 187(C), pages 109-117.
    2. Linda Kridahl, 2017. "Retirement timing and grandparenthood: A population-based study on Sweden," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 37(31), pages 957-994.
    3. Danielsbacka, Mirkka & Tanskanen, Antti O. & Coall, David A. & Jokela, Markus, 2019. "Grandparental childcare, health and well-being in Europe: A within-individual investigation of longitudinal data," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 230(C), pages 194-203.

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    Norway; Mortality; Grandparents; Register data;


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