The association between grandparenthood and mortality
Solveig Glestad Christiansen
Social Science and Medicine 2014 118 pp. 89- 96
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.