Methods: The data used in this study were from the 2014 Korean Older People Survey. A probability sample of 9,831 older adults (65 or older) was analyzed. The Short Form of Geriatric Depression Scale (Korean Older People Survey, 2014) was used to measure depression. Two types of Intergenerational Solidarity, Associational Solidarity and Functional Solidarity, were assessed with the Intergenerational Solidarity Model (Bengtson and Roberts, 1991). Associational Solidarity is measured as frequency of contact through telephone/SMS/email/mail and frequency of face-to-face contact with their adult children. Functional Solidarity is measured as instrumental assistance provided by their adult children such as doing household chores, giving a hospital ride, and financial assistance. Multiple regression analysis was conducted to examine the association between different forms of intergenerational solidarity and depression by bereavement status.
Results: More than half of the sample were women aged between 65 and 74. About one-thirds of the sample were bereaved older adults. About 31.9% of older adults in this study had a clinical level of depression. As for Associational Solidarity, frequency of contact through telephone/SMS/email/mail was significantly associated with depression, but frequency of face-to-face contact was not significantly. As for Functional Solidarity, older adults with higher instrumental assistance from their adult children had a significantly lower level of depression, whereas more financial assistance was associated with a higher level of depression. When compared with bereaved older adults, frequent face-to-face contact significantly reduced the level of depression among the older adults with a spouse. For the bereaved older adults, frequency of contact through telephone/SMS/email/mail and instrumental assistance of adult children were significant protectors of depression, but financial assistance from their adult children significantly increased depression.
Conclusions and Implications: This study showed that intergenerational solidarity can protect older adults from developing depression. The older adults could feel supported and less lonely even if their adult children are not able to physically visit them. Contact through phone calls, video calls or smartphone messages can be more helpful. This study also found that instrumental assistance such as helping housework can reduce the level of depression. Social services providing instrumental assistance to older adults can be helpful. On the contrary, financial assistance of adult children may make the older people feel a burden on their children and depressed. Thus, it is required to install various social support measures that can reduce burden of financial assistance of adult children.