Looking after grandchildren can add five years to life span

By Drum Digital
27 December 2016

Grandparents who look after their grandkids can add five years on to their life span.

Many grandparents gush about the joys of becoming one, explaining how caring for a tot is more enjoyable the second time round as you’ve already experienced any stress that can be thrown your way. And now a fresh study has shown just how beneficial caring for grandchildren can actually be.

New research from a team of international scientists looked at survival rates of a study group of more than 500 German and Swiss adults, aged between 70 and 103. They discounted any grandparents who were the primary caregivers of their children’s offspring, focusing instead on those who provided occasional childcare and compared them to older people who had no care duties.

People who had no children but gave emotional support as a carer to others were also looked at, comparing to those who didn’t act in any way as a carer.

Results have been published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, showing that half of the participants who had looked after their grandkids were alive 10 years after they were looked at. It was also noted how those who didn’t looking after grandchildren died within five years.

In addition it was found that the people who provided emotional support to others lived for seven extra years. Non-helpers lived for an average of four more years.

“Helping shouldn't be misunderstood as a panacea for a longer life,” said researcher Ralph Hertwig, from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin.

“A moderate level of care-giving involvement does seem to have positive effects on health. But previous studies have shown that more intense involvement causes stress, which has negative effects on physical and mental health.”

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