Sara M. Moorman of the Institute on Aging at Boston College and Jeffrey E. Stokes, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Boston College, said they found an emotionally close grandparent-adult grandchild relationship was associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations.
However, grandparents who experienced the sharpest increases in depressive symptoms over time received tangible support, but did not give it, Moorman said.
"There's a saying, 'It's better to give than to receive.' Our results support that folk wisdom -- if a grandparent gets help, but can't give it, he or she feels badly," Moorman said in a statement. "Grandparents expect to be able to help their grandchildren, even when their grandchildren are grown, and it's frustrating and depressing for them to instead be dependent on their grandchildren."
The researchers also found grandparents who both gave and received tangible support -- rides to the store, gifts of money, help with household chores -- experienced the fewest symptoms of depression over time.
The researchers used data from the Longitudinal Study of Generations from 1985-2004. The sample involved 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren, with the average grandparent born in 1917 and the average grandchild in 1963.
The findings are being presented at the 108th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York Monday.