Survey Shows Women "Sandwiched" Between Needs Of Their Aging Parents And Their Children Are Significantly More Depressed Than Other Americans

Social workers with expertise in working with older Americans are prepared to provide care coordination to ease this double burden, but this resource remains untapped

WASHINGTON, DC – A recent survey shows that nearly half of women concerned about an aging relative’s health said they are impacted by feelings of depression, while only 36% of women for whom an aging relative's health care is not a concern indicated feelings of depression. "Squeezed Between Children and Older Parents: A Survey of Sandwich Generation Women" is a national poll conducted by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) among women ages 35 to 54. This group is often referred to as the "Sandwich Generation" because they are caring for both their own children and their aging relatives.

"Caring for my own mother was difficult. It was very hard at times to prioritize the needs of my mother and my son. Juggling those responsibilities is overwhelming and very stressful. I had times when I would cry or I couldn't eat, and I became depressed about the situation." Says Joanne Lehman, a single parent of a 16-year-old who is also caring for her 95-year-old mother, "Hiring a social worker to assist with my mother’s care helped ease what was a tremendous burden."

The survey further shows that only two in ten Sandwich Generation Women utilize social workers as a resource. Pat Volland, senior vice president of NYAM and director of Social Work Leadership Institute, adds, "Social workers can help these women identify community resources, navigate through Medicaid and Medicare, offer counseling and assist in coordinating a parent's care. For example, many older Americans have issues with mobility, and a social worker can help with that. According to our survey, it’s not only Alzheimer's and cancer that older Americans need help with; it's the little things like keeping track of medications and getting around town."

The survey data further demonstrates the pressures that many Sandwich Generation women face:

- Women concerned about an aging relative's health were about three times more likely (34%) to say they worry "a great deal" about having enough time for family than those women who don't have an aging relative they're currently concerned about (12%).

- Only 20% of sandwich generation women say they are very happy, while a third of the general population says they are very happy.[1]

- More than 60% of women concerned about an aging relative's health said they have difficulty managing stress compared to 48% of women for whom an aging relative's health care was not a concern.

"With the multiple challenges and demands facing women today, especially those in caregiving roles, it is not surprising to see that they are feeling stressed," said NASW executive director Dr. Elizabeth Clark. "Caring for an aging parent is a tough job that can take an emotional, financial and even physical toll on the caregiver, leading to illness or depression."

NASW and NYAM/SWLI stress that women must take care of their own mental health even as they care for others. Taking time out, asking for professional help from social workers and keeping your sense of humor are all important tips for Sandwich Generation women. For more information and tips about caregiving, or to find a social worker visit

About the National Association of Social Workers

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with approximately 150,000 members. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

About the New York Academy of Medicine

Founded in 1847, The New York Academy of Medicine is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit institution whose mission is to enhance the health of the public. The Academy is a leading center for urban health policy and action working to enhance the health of people living in cities worldwide through research, education, advocacy, and prevention. Visit us online at


The Pursuant, Inc. poll of 1,123 respondents (margin of error +/- 3%, and larger for subsamples) was fielded August 22-27, 2006 by Knowledge Networks, using its nationwide panel, which is randomly selected via random-digit dialing (RDD) from the entire adult population and subsequently provided Internet access. For more information about this methodology, go to Survey participants were comprised of women between the ages of 35 and 54 who have at least one parent still living, whom we deem "sandwich generation women."  This study was sponsored by the National Association of Social Workers and the New York Academy of Medicine.

[1] Source: "Are We Happy Yet?" by the Pew Research Center downloaded from 29 August 2006. The results are based on a national U.S. survey of telephone interviews, which asked essentially the same question, conducted with a nationally representative sample of 3,014 adults, with a margin of error of +/- 2%, and higher for results based on subgroups of respondents.

To find a social worker, visit

Media Coverage

Fewer Middle-Aged Women Happy, Study Says
CBS Early Show
By Rene Syler
November 14, 2006

Middle-aged women are less likely to be happy
USA Today
By Marilyn Elias
November 13, 2006

Middle age no picnic for women
United Press International
By Linda Huntley
November 13, 2006
National Association of Social Workers, 750 First Street, NE • Suite 800, Washington, DC 20002
NASW Member Services 800-742-4089 Mon-Fri 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET or
©2017 National Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved.
  • Update Your Profile in the Member Center
  • Login