Later-life loneliness is increasingly recognized as an important public health issue. In this study, we examine whether having more children and grandchildren is protective against later life loneliness in a group of Eastern and Western European countries. Drawing on data from the Generation and Gender Surveys, we estimated logistic regression models of the likelihood of being lonely among men and women aged 65 and older. The results showed a negative association between number of children and loneliness among men and women in both Eastern-European and Western-European countries. A mediation analysis performed using the KHB decomposition method showed that grandparenthood status partly explained differences in the loneliness risks of childless women, mothers with one child and those with two or more children. Among men, the mediating role of grandparenthood was significant in Eastern Europe and marginally significant in Western countries. Given the relatively strong reliance of older people on the family in Eastern Europe, we expected that the protective effects of offspring on loneliness would be stronger in Eastern-European countries than in Western-European countries. This hypothesis was supported only in part by our results. The protective effect of having four or more children was larger in the East than in the West. Overall, our findings indicate that having close family members, including more children and at least one grandchild, has a protective effect against later-life loneliness in both country clusters considered.

, , , , , ,,
Zeitschrift für Familienforschung
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

van den Broek, T., Tosi, M., & Grundy, E. (2019). Offspring and later-life loneliness in Eastern and Western Europe. Zeitschrift für Familienforschung, 31(2), 199–215. doi:10.3224/zff.v31i2.05