Mental and physical health among ‘sandwich’ generation working-age adults in the United States: Not all sandwiches are made equal

Kent Jason Go Cheng, Alexis Rául Santos-Lozada

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Objective: This research examined mental and physical health differences by (1) potential upward and downward care recipients and (2) heterogenous time and money transfer arrangements among working-age adults aged 35–64 in the U.S. who are considered to belong to the ‘sandwich generation’. Methods: Data for this study came from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics 2013 Family File and Rosters and Transfers module (n = 4609). For the second study objective, we restricted the analytic sample to individuals with at least one living parent/parent-in-law and at least one child (n = 2228). We varied the sandwich generation experience by whether upward (i.e., to parent), downward (i.e., to children), or transfers at both directions occurred. We then fit a series of logistic regression models to study psychological distress and self-rated health status differences among various classifications of sandwich generation, controlling for basic sociodemographic factors and living arrangements. For both samples, we ran separate models for those without underaged coresident children. Results: Compared to respondents without potential care recipients, sandwiched individuals do not differ concerning severe psychological distress or poor/fair health. Conditional on being sandwiched between parents/parents-in-law and adult children, providers of both upward and downward time transfers have almost twice the odds of having severe psychological distress while money providers to parents/parents-in-law have about 1.6 times higher odds of reporting poor/fair health status. Conclusion: This study dispels the notion that being part of the sandwich generation is automatically deleterious to mental and physical health. Rather, it is the provision of certain transfers whilst being sandwiched that is associated with worse health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101650
JournalSSM - Population Health
StatePublished - Jun 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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