Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 687–719 | Cite as

The impact of adult child emigration on the mental health of older parents

  • Irene MoscaEmail author
  • Alan Barrett
Original Paper


We explore whether older parents of adult children who emigrate experience, in the short term, 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 8500 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. As the economic burden of mental health problems is high, our findings have potentially significant impacts for migrant-sending regions and countries.


Emigration Depression Mental health Older parents 

JEL Classification

I15 J14 F22 



We would like to thank the Editor and three anonymous referees for their insightful comments. Irene Mosca is supported by a Health Research Board of Ireland grant (ICE/2011/7) under the Interdisciplinary Capacity Enhancement programme. TILDA is funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, the Irish Government Department of Health and Children and Irish Life and Permanent plc.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Irish Longitudinal Study on AgeingTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland
  2. 2.Economic and Social Research InstituteDublin 2Ireland
  3. 3.Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)BonnGermany

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