J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2023 Oct 17:gbad154. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbad154. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVES: The experience of being sandwiched between support obligations towards both aging parents and adult offspring is likely to become more common and more relevant. We aim at assessing the effect of demographic and social sandwiching on the psychological health and subjective well-being of individuals experiencing these transitions, and to what extent, these effects vary across welfare regimes.
METHODS: Data are from 63,585 individuals aged 50-75 participating in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). We estimate within- and between-individual effects using hybrid regression models to predict depressive symptoms (EURO-D) and subjective well-being (CASP).
RESULTS: Among demographically sandwiched women, transitioning into social sandwiching and into supporting only parents were associated with a moderate but statistically significant increase in EURO-D and decline in CASP scores. The same association is not observed for male respondents. The pattern of variation among women living in countries characterized by different welfare regimes suggests that social sandwiching is less detrimental in the Nordic regimes than in other welfare contexts.
DISCUSSION: Results from the between-individuals part of the model indicate that there is a selection into social sandwiching of more healthy individuals into support roles. However, the within-individuals part of the model indicates that the transition into social sandwiching has a detrimental effect on women’s (but not men’s) psychological health and well-being. The explanations for this gendered effect of social sandwiching may be found in the “invisible” support provided by women and the gendered division of specific care tasks.