The Impact of Adult Child Emigration on the Mental Health of Older Parents

Irene Mosca, Trinity College Dublin
Alan Barrett, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), Dublin

In this paper, we explore whether older parents of adult children who emigrate experience increases in depressive symptoms and loneliness feelings compared to parents whose children do not migrate. We use data from the first two waves of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, which is a nationally representative sample of 8,500 people aged 50+ living in Ireland. To deal with the endogeneity of migration, we apply fixed effects estimation models and control for a broad range of life-events occurring between the two waves. These include the emigration of a child but also events such as bereavement, onset of disease, retirement and unemployment. We find that depressive symptoms and loneliness feelings increase among the parents of migrant children but that the effect is only present for mothers. Given the relationship between mental health and other health outcomes, the potential impacts for the older populations of migrant-sending regions and countries are significant.

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Presented in Session 208: Demographic Processes and Mental Health