Researchers Reveal Grandparents Who Babysit Live Longer

Researchers Reveal Grandparents Who Babysit Live Longer

grandparentsAging

It’s hard not to love grandparents. They’re sweet, they adore their grandkids, and they have more than enough love to share! But unfortunately, with their old age comes a lot of potential problems, typically to do with physical and mental decline. It can be challenging to think of the difficulties grandparents face as they grow older.

But, did you know that grandparents can potentially extend their lifespans just by being grandparents? Recent research reveals that spending regular amounts of time with their little ones can improve their overall longevity!

Researchers Reveal Grandparents Who Babysit Live Longer Than Those Who Don’t

1.  The Study 

The study concerning this exciting phenomenon is entitled “Caregiving within and beyond the family is associated with lower mortality for the caregiver: A prospective study.” It was published in Evolution and Human Behavior in 2016. The authors, in alphabetical order, are:

  • David A. Coall – Edith Cowan University and University of Western Australia
  • Denis Gerstorf – Humboldt University
  • Ralph Hertwig – Max Planck Institute for Human Development
  • Sonja Hilbrand (lead author) – University of Basel and Max Planck Institute for Human Development

The study was of a prospective cohort variety. Its aim was simple: to determine the relationship between life expectancy and caregiving duties provided by grandparents, whether to their relatives or others. But why focus on this specific topic?

A number of studies have indicated that just being a grandparent can have positive benefits on overall health. But at the same time, there are conflicting studies that suggest that some grandparents wind up dealing with the opposite. This is especially the case when they wind up needing to care for their grandchildren from prolonged periods. (1)

ADVERTISEMENT

To add some clarity to these contradictory findings, researchers aimed to focus solely on mortality and its links to grandparents and their family relationships. Researchers did their best to keep an eye on most variables.

2.    Study Methods

This study was conducted with a simple method over multiple years. Here are some details about the study methods.

·         Source

Researchers referred to Berlin Aging Study data, also known as BASE. They collected and recorded information regarding health details and social interactions and conditions. They also recorded information regarding the younger family of grandparents.

Researchers selected participants within the BASE system randomly. They pulled the participant data from the records of the registration office in West Berlin. They were all aged 70 or older, and there were 516 of them in total.

·         Information From Participants

Participants would attend medical examinations and interviews, each conducted in either their own homes or with their doctors in hospitals or other practice locations. Some individuals were grandparents while others were not, allowing for useful comparison data.

It is worth noting that none of these participants were official or permanent guardians with primary custody of these grandchildren. This prevented inconsistent data review.

·         Specific Questions

Participants were asked to provide details regarding their caregiving activities in the past year. “Caregiving” in the context of this study was described as the act of spending time with a grandchild – whether to watch over them or for bonding time – without that child’s parents being present.

Participants provided their information on a scale of seven, with a ranking of 1, meaning they had never performed caregiving tasks and 7 meaning they did so daily. Individuals without grandchildren were scored “1” by default.

·         Duration

Participants attended these tests and interviews every two years beginning the year 1990 and ending in 2009. As such, the study was conducted over the long span of 20 years, and it reached completion in 2016.

Participants who passed away were recorded, as mortality-related information was the heart of the study. The time to death after an interview was noted down and used as a mortality figure.

·         Interpreting Data

Analyses were performed in a statistical fashion over the data collected. The total life expectancy of grandparents who performed caregiving activities, grandparents who did not, and participants who were not grandparents were all compared.

Data was additionally controlled within certain variables, accounting for each participant’s age, state of health, socioeconomic position, and certain features of their grandkids and the parents of their grandkids.

·         Challenges

Due to the fact that participants answered interviews, there is a chance of data becoming compromised by recall bias. In addition, although researchers did their best to keep all variables in check, some errors in recording data may still have occurred, as with many studies of this variety.

3.    Study Results

Of the 516 participants, there were 80 grandparents who participated in caregiving activities. Grandparents who did not take on caregiver duties numbered 232 people in total. Participants who were not grandparents at all totaled 204.

But what were the results? Was there any link found between caregiving activities and mortality rates? As it turns out, there just might be! Researchers made the necessary adjustments to make their results as accurate as possible, and they found the following:

  • Grandparents who take part in caregiving activities face a 37% lower mortality risk when compared to grandparents who do not.

 

  • Those grandparents who take part in caregiving activities face a 37% lower mortality risk when compared to those who are not grandparents.

 

  • Grandparents who do not take part in caregiving activities have the same mortality risk as those who are not grandparents.

 

  • Those who are not grandparents face a 57% lower mortality risk when they provide assistance to their children (as adults) when compared to those who are not grandparents and do not provide assistance to their children as adults.

 

  • Those who are not grandparents face a 60% lower mortality risk when they provide support or help to other individuals when compared to those who are not grandparents and do not provide support or help to other individuals.

Based on these results, researchers concluded that all individuals who provide support or help to others, whether their grandchildren, children, or other random people, would have a higher chance of better life longevity. As such, helping actions may be the key to better mortality.

4.    Potential Issues With This Research

As with all research done in any way, there are issues that exist that can affect the overall reliability of the findings. This study is no exception. The issues are as follows:

·         Some Variables Were Unexplored

Researchers did not take note of the cause of death of any of their participants. They also did not deeply explore issues regarding the participants’ current mental health, physical health, or other similar issues.

·         Memory Issues

Participants answered interview questions on a bi-annual basis, leaving plenty of room for them to forget details or fall victim to recall bias. There is virtually no way to verify their claims.

ADVERTISEMENT

·         Numbers

516 seems like a lot of people, but it is a relatively small sample size for any study. Only 80 individuals were grandparents with caregiving responsibilities. Larger studies may be able to achieve more accurate results.

·         The Study Was Observational

The difficulty with studies conducted in an observational method is that there is no definitive way to prove a cause and effect scenario. There is no way to determine that these results truly cause and effect and are not mere correlation.

Does this mean these results are inherently not trustworthy? Of course not! But, as with all studies, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Regardless, you should still view this study with positive thinking and appreciate its message, and perhaps apply it to your own life!

5.    Why Do Those Who Support Others Live Longer?

So, why exactly does babysitting, helping, or supporting others lead to longer lifespans? More research is necessary for fully cohesive answers, but there are plenty of potential reasons you may be able to think of. Here are some of them:

·         More Frequent Learning

A grandparent who looks after their children will often join them in certain brain-boosting activities. They may play games with them, help them finish puzzles, or provide homework assistance.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
ThankThank you! Your free book preview is in your email. If you don’t see it immediately, please check your spam or promotions folder.