Is intergenerational living the secret to good mental health in old age?

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The FINANCIAL — Intergenerational cohabitation (parents and adult children living in the same household) may have contributed to curbing high rates of depressive symptoms among older people during the Great Recession, according to new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and King’s College London.

Older parents who coresided with their adult children had better mental health as a result, according to a new paper published in Social Science and Medicine.

The research examined the impact of intergenerational cohabitation on the mental health of older parents. Through analysing data on over 50,000 individuals across Europe from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Emilie Courtin and Mauricio Avendano assessed the effect of cohabiting with adult children on their ageing parents during the great recession.

They found a significant reduction in depressive symptoms among older parents co-residing with adult children. The potential benefits of cohabitation are not negligible: The researchers found that living with adult children was associated with a 30% decline in average depressive symptoms levels. This effect is larger in size than that of being widowed or having a disability, both significant predictors of depression in later life

Emilie Courtin, LSE Health and Social Care, said: “How intergenerational co-residence affects mental health in older age is an important policy question given rising cohabitation rates in the aftermath of the Great Recession. High youth unemployment rates are leading adult children to either stay longer, or move back to, the parental home. Our findings show that these changes in living arrangements can have a positive spill over in terms of parental mental health.”

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“These findings are not surprising as we know that isolated older households are at higher risk of poor physical and mental health. As the burden of old age depression increases in ageing societies, policies promoting intergenerational exchanges have a key role to play to curb high rates of depressive symptoms among older people.”


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