Article Text

Association between caring for grandchildren and feelings of loneliness, social isolation and social network size: a cross-sectional study of community dwelling adults in Germany
  1. Eleanor Quirke,
  2. Hans-Helmut König,
  3. André Hajek
  1. Department for Health Economics and Health Services Research, Universitatsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Ms Eleanor Quirke; e.quirke{at}


Objective The aim of this study was to examine whether there is an association between grandparental care and loneliness, social isolation and/or the size of an individual’s social network among community-based adults aged ≥40 years.

Methods Cross-sectional data were drawn from a population-based sample of individuals aged ≥40 years living in the community in Germany. Loneliness was measured using a short version of the De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale. Social isolation was measured using a scale developed by Bude and Lantermann. The number of important people with whom respondents have regular contact (ie, social network size) was also used as an outcome variable. All respondents were asked whether they privately provide grandparent care (no/yes).

Results Linear regressions showed reduced loneliness (β=−0.06, p<0.01) and social isolation scores (β=−0.04, p<0.05) among those undertaking care of a grandchild. Regression analysis also showed an increased number of important people with whom individuals had regular contact among those who undertook care of a grandchild (β=1.02, p<0.001).

Conclusion Findings indicate a positive association between undertaking the care of a grandchild and the size of an individual’s social network, and a negative association between grandchild care and self-rated scores of loneliness and social isolation. These findings build on existing research into the social and health implications of grandchild care among grandparents. Longitudinal studies are required to strengthen the understanding of this association.

  • grandparental care
  • intergenerational care
  • loneliness
  • social isolation

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  • Contributors EQ, HHK, AH: Design and concept of analyses, preparation of data, statistical analysis and interpretation of data, preparing the manuscript. All authors critically reviewed the manuscript, provided significant editing of the article and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The German Centre of Gerontology (DZA) resolved that ethics approval for the DEAS study was not necessary as the criteria for requiring an ethical statement were not met (namely, risk for the respondents, lack of information about the aims of the study, examination of patients). This is in accordance with the German Research Foundation-guidelines (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) available at: (only available in German language).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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