Exploring causal effects of combining work and intergenerational support on depressive symptoms among middle-aged women

Suzanna J. Opree*, Matthijs Kalmijn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


In debates about ageing western societies it is often assumed that many middle-aged women struggle to combine paid employment and intergenerational support, and that the subsequent stress leads them to experience an increase in depressive symptoms. Cross-sectional studies have supported this notion, but the question remains whether combining work and intergenerational support actually causes an increase in depressive symptoms. In order to fill a gap in the literature, this study examines the proportion of middle-aged women combining paid work and support to an adult child and/or parent, and the extent to which combining these roles affects women's depressive symptoms over time. For this purpose, we make use of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) data set which includes longitudinal data collected on European women aged 50+. Descriptive analyses indicated that 14 per cent of middle-aged women combine the roles of employee, support provider to an adult child, and/or support provider to a parent. Results from semi-dynamic and full-dynamic regression analyses indicate that combining roles can take away some, of the positive mental health effects of fulfilling a role. These findings support the role combination stress hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-146
Number of pages17
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
1 This paper uses data from SHARE waves 1 and 2, as of 24 November 2010. SHARE data collection in 2004–07 was primarily funded by the European Commission through its 5th and 6th framework programmes (project numbers QLK6-CT-2001-00360; RII-CT-2006-062193; CIT5-CT-2005-028857). Additional funding by the US National Institute on Aging (grant numbers U01 AG09740-13S2; P01 AG005842; P01 AG08291; P30 AG12815; Y1-AG-4553-01; OGHA 04-064; R21 AG025169) as well as by various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see http://www.share-project.org for a full list of funding institutions).

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