Aging parents’ influence on the subjective health of their adult children

Rainer Unger, Universitat Bremen
Alexander Schulze, University of Mainz

Whilst the dependency of (adult) children’s health status on parent’s need for care is well documented, findings about the more general influence of aging parents on their adult children’s health status are rare. To provide evidence for this relationship, we analyse subjective health outcomes with cross-sectional data of the ‘German Generations and Gender Survey’ (GGS), comprising a random sample of 18- to 79-year-old inhabitants living in German private households (N = 10,017). As a result, it can be concluded that middle-aged parents have a positive effect on the subjective health of their adult children, but with proceeding age this effect shrinks and is finally inverted when the parents are ageing and their children reach the age of 60 years. Additionally, the children’s health is negatively affected if a parent deceases and/or if at least one parent faces significant physical restrictions. These physical restrictions are particularly strainful for working adult children with only a single-parent (lack of time and/or lack of support from the missing spouse). This finding persists irrespective of the contact frequency between children and parent(s) and the quality of the parent-child relationship. But if the relationship between parent(s) and children is good this results in a better health status, even if the parent(s) is(are) chronically ill or in need of care. Given these results, the family context can be seen as an ambivalent health resource in an intergenerational and life course perspective.

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Presented in Session 17: Care for Older Persons: Needs and Implications