New Aid for Depression: Grandparents

A wonderful new family link, and depression, of all things, has been found in a new study, according to

Relationships between grandparents and adult grandchildren can prevent depression in both.

The study shows that grandparents and grandchildren have real, measurable effects on each other’s psychological well-being long into grandchildren’s adulthood, reports.

“We found that an emotionally close grandparent-adult grandchild relationship was associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations,” quotes Sara M. Moorman, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and the Institute on Aging at Boston College.  “The greater emotional support grandparents and adult grandchildren received from one another, the better their psychological health.”

Interestingly, the grandparents who received support from their grandkids but were not able to return it were the most depressed.  “There’s a saying, ‘It’s better to give than to receive.’ Our results support that folk wisdom — if a grandparent gets help, but can’t give it, he or she feels badly," Moorman, a co-author of the study, tells "Grandparents expect to be able to help their grandchildren, even when their grandchildren are grown, and it’s frustrating and depressing for them to instead be dependent on their grandchildren.”

Researchers found that grandparents who both gave and received tangible support experienced the fewest symptoms of depression over time. “Therefore, encouraging more grandparents and adult grandchildren to engage in this type of exchange may be a fruitful way to reduce depression in older adults,” says Moorman.  

“Most of us have been raised to believe that the way to show respect to older family members is to be solicitous and to take care of their every need,” she adds. “But all people benefit from feeling needed, worthwhile, and independent. In other words, let granddad write you a check on your birthday, even if he’s on Social Security and you’ve held a real job for years now.”

I was lucky enough to keep three of my grandparents into my adulthood, and I remember to this day conversations that we had, and my favorite memory of my grandmother, when I was having trouble with my boss, saying, "Say yes to everything and then do what you want."

It worked, and it's served me well, in marriage, too.


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