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


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.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Suzanna J. Opree, Department of Communication Science, University of Amsterdam, Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
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