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Research: If grandparents look after the grandchildren, this increases their own life expectancy


Grandparents caring for grandchildren live up to five years longer
People are always looking for ways to increase their life expectancy. Sometimes extending our lifespan may seem easier than expected. Researchers have now found that grandparents' life expectancy increases when they take care of their grandchildren. Caring for grandchildren can extend grandparents' lives by up to five years.

Scientists at Edith Cowan University found in an investigation that caring for grandchildren from their grandparents can extend their lives by up to five years compared to grandparents who don't care about their grandchildren. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Evolution and Human Behavior".

Caring for grandchildren has a major impact on the life of grandparents
Research shows that caring for grandchildren increases life expectancy even more than a healthy lifestyle and sufficient activity. Many grandparents often take care of their grandchildren. However, some of these older people also feel that care is a burden. Caring for grandchildren has more impact on life expectancy than diagnosing one or more chronic or serious illnesses in late life, the experts say.

Selfless help or care brings significant health benefits
The study was the first of its kind to uncover such a connection. There is a growing number of research into the effects of so-called selfless care activities and the resulting health benefits. This means, for example, help or care for other people without expecting anything in return, explains author Dr. David Coall from Edith Cowan University.

Caring grandparents often experience happiness, contentment and pride
In talks with a lot of grandparents, they often said they felt happy, contented, and proud of caring for their grandchildren, the researchers report. For many people, this could be the only situation in life where they do something without expecting anything in return, say the scientists.

Study examines almost 520 elderly subjects
The research team examined 516 older German test subjects for their work, who took part in a long-term health study. Of this group, 80 participants regularly took care of their grandchildren, the doctors say. Taking other variables into account, including age and health, grandparents who cared for their grandchildren lived significantly longer.

Help and support from other people affects mortality
The study results suggest that there is help to others and not just positive health effects. Aid to other people also affects overall human mortality. This effect seems to be particularly strong in caring grandparents, say the authors of the study. In their study, the researchers also looked at grandparents who supported their adult children with housework and other tasks. Grandparents who support other people on their social network were also examined. Both groups also had a significantly increased lifespan.

Forced care tends to have a negative effect on mortality
The same effect could not be found in grandparents, if tragic circumstances forced them to care, the scientists report. This group even experienced a significant decrease in life expectancy, explains author Dr. Coall.

Two theories could explain the effect of increasing life expectancy
What leads to the sometimes dramatic results? There are two competing theories. First, when grandparents take care of their grandchildren, they also seem to think a lot more about their own care. This includes, for example, a healthy diet and lots of exercise. The doctors suspect. The second theory relies on the power of emotions. The helping behavior and the resulting feelings of happiness could act as a kind of buffer for stress, explains Dr. Coall. (as)

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