15th Sep 2017

Study finds grandparents who babysit live longer

Babysitting grandparents live longer
Ben Hocking

The financial stress of childcare has seen an increasing reliance on grandparents to baby sit in recent years, and a recent study has discovered it could have significant health benefits.

Data from 500 seniors in the Berlin Aging Study shows that those who babysat lived longer, and it didn't matter whether it was their own grandkids or someone else's.

According to the study, taking care of kids keeps them physically active and helps relieve stress.

Another benefit is the social interaction, that helps keep the brain healthy.

Researchers at the University of Basel, Edith Cowan University (ECU) and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin examined data from more than 500 people aged 70 and up, who took part in the massive Berlin Aging Study. The participants were interviewed and medically tested every two years from 1990 to 2009.

About 50 per cent of the grandparents who cared for grandchildren or supported their adult children in some way were still alive 10 years after the initial interview. In comparison, half of the seniors who didn't help others died within five years of the initial interview.

On the flip side, spending time with grandma and grandpa is also great for kids. It gives them extra stability and emotional support.

Dr David Coall from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences said the study showed caregiving helped improve longevity among older people.

“This research shows the positive link between caregiving and a longer lifespan in older people, however, we can only speculate as to why,” he said.

“Previous research points to helping behaviour as a stress buffer that involves, for example, the hormone oxytocin, which can strengthen bonding between people.

“This link could be a mechanism deeply rooted in our evolutionary past when help with childcare was crucial for the survival of the human species.”

He said the research showed the benefits of caring also extended beyond grandchildren.

“Older people who cared for their own adult children or other members of the community showed the same increase in longevity,” he said.

Do you look after your grandchildren? Do you feel that it makes you feel good?

Related articles:
Grandparents feeling the pressure
Grandparents main childcare providers
Grandparents paid for babysitting

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