A dose of diaper duty can lengthen a grandparent’s life

October 16, 2020

Live long and prosper—by helping others. Especially your grandchildren. Those are the findings of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Basel (Switzerland), Edith Cowan University (Australia), the University of Western Australia, the Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany), and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Germany).

The study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, found that grandparents who provide care for their grandkids live longer than grandparents who aren’t as involved. Similarly, older people who help take care of their peers live longer than those who don’t.

To reach their conclusion, researchers evaluated 500 people between thee ages of 70 and 103 years old, using data from the Berlin Aging Study collected between 1990 and 2009. Grandparents who were primary caregivers for their grandchildren—and who, therefore, had a much heavier load to carry—were not taken into account for the study, according to a report by Study Finds.

Indeed, ha;f of the grandparents who took care of their grandchildren were still alive about ten years after the first interview in 1990. The same applied to participants who did not have grandchildren, but who supported their children—for example, by helping with housework. In contrast, about half of those who did not help others died within five years.

Older adults who had no children, but aided others in their social network lived about three years longer than those who didn’t.

“But helping shouldn’t be misunderstood as a panacea for a longer life,” Ralph Hertwig, Director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development said in a release from the University of Basel. “A moderate level of caregiving 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.”

So, for grandparents who want to stick around longer just to watch their grandkids achieve milestones in their lives—make sure you’re an active part of their upbringing and you’ll have a greater shot at being there for them as adults, too.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

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