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Bringing up grandchildren is linked to depression

(ran PT HT editions)

Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are much more prone to depression than other grandparents, a University of California study has found. The research suggested that the risk particularly affects those who have just taken on child-raising responsibility.

Researchers at the university's School of Public Health reviewed data from a 1980s physicians' survey and found that those grandparents carrying the primary care burden for their grandchildren had twice the risk of developing depression than grandparents in more traditional roles.

The physicians' survey found depressive symptoms among a significant number of older and middle-aged female grandparents suddenly faced with the stresses of raising a grandchild.

The researchers, writing in the Archives of Family Medicine, noted that follow-up social histories of the women surveyed revealed "the women had in common the fact that they recently had become caregivers for their grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Depression symptoms were frequently among the health problems observed."

Only 15.5 percent of the grandparents surveyed who were not providing primary care for grandchildren exhibited symptoms of depression, compared with 26 percent of those who were providing primary care.

The researchers said that becoming a caregiving grandparent is "not, in and of itself, sufficient to explain the onset of clinical depression."

The groups most likely to develop symptoms were younger grandparents who had just taken on parental responsibility, females (women are the overwhelming majority of grandparents in this situation), African-Americans and grandparents whose health was poor. Older survey respondents and those in good health were significantly less depressed, the study found.

The number of American children being raised primarily by grandparents has risen in recent years to more than 1.5-million.