Grandmothers who raise grandkids more likely to struggle with depression

Depression affects about 10 percent of the U.S. population, causing people to take Effexor and other medications.

Depression affects about 10 percent of the U.S. population, causing people to take Effexor and other medications. The average age for the onset of depression is 32, though it can affect people at any age. Also, depression is more prevalent among women - they're almost twice as likely to be depressed than men, and one in five American women has depression at some point in their lifetimes. Though depression is most likely to occur between the ages of 40 and 59 in women, it can develop during any point in their lives. 

The study
According to a long-running study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, grandmothers who are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren ages 16 and younger are more likely to be depressed. The study tracked 240 grandmothers over 6.5 years, and the women were at an average age of 57.5 at the beginning of the study. They fell into three groups: non-caregivers, full-time caregivers or those living in multigenerational households. 

The findings
The research, which was published in the July- August 2013 edition of Nursing Outlook, found that grandmothers who were primary caregivers were more likely to have depressive symptoms and live in families where there was inter-family strain. However, across all grandmothers' living situations that were surveyed, those who were rated as more resourceful were less likely to be depressed. Also, researchers found that grandmothers were open to receiving help and resources from others.

These findings are socially significant: About 5.3 percent - or 6.2 million - of U.S. households are multigenerational and include at least one grandparent. Additionally, more than one million grandmothers are primary caregivers to their grandchildren, meaning the children's parents do not live in the home. This number might increase for many reasons, including that the economic recovery is lagging and multigenerational households can be cost-effective, and that more cuts have been made in social services for older adults or poor families with children. Intra-generational strain can be placed on family members due to a lack of privacy, health issues, financial problems and less discretionary time.

Thus, according to the study's principal investigator nurse Carol Musil, more social supports are necessary for grandparents who are children's primary caregivers:

"The most important thing is to maintain and perhaps develop new cognitive and behavioral skills and approaches for handling some very challenging family issues," Musil said.