Long-term psychological consequences of parental bereavement prior to midlife: volunteering helps.

TitleLong-term psychological consequences of parental bereavement prior to midlife: volunteering helps.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsHuo, M, Kim, K, Wang, D
JournalAging & Mental Health
ISSN Number1364-6915
Keywordsbereaved parents, child loss, depression, volunteer

OBJECTIVES: Losing a child prior to midlife may be a uniquely traumatic event that continues to compromise parents' well-being in later life. This study compared psychological well-being between bereaved and non-bereaved parents, and examined whether volunteering protects bereaved parents. Because most families have more than one child, we further explored whether the number of living children parents had differentiated bereaved parents in their well-being.

METHODS: We analyzed a pooled sample of parents aged 50+ ( = 12,023) from the (2010/2012-2012/2014), including parents who lost a child prior to 50 and those who never lost a child. Two-level linear regression models were estimated to test the associations between child loss, volunteering, and psychological well-being, and examine the moderating effect of number of living children.

RESULTS: Bereaved parents reported more depressive symptoms and lower life satisfaction than their non-bereaved counterparts, which was more evident among parents with fewer children alive. Among bereaved parents, volunteering, particularly volunteering 100+ hours/year, was associated with better psychological well-being at baseline; yet, volunteering 1-99 hours/year led to a larger increase in life satisfaction over time. The benefits of volunteering held true regardless of the number of living children.

CONCLUSION: This study adds to our understanding of the lasting effect of parental bereavement and suggests volunteering as a potential intervention aimed at helping bereaved older parents. Findings identify parents with fewer children as a particularly vulnerable population in the face of child loss and calls for more resources allocated to help them.

Citation Key12493
PubMed ID35696362