The conversations of life

Want to live longer? Look after the grandkids, but don’t do it all the time – it could kill you


If you are a grandparent who cares for your grandchildren, you will live up to five years longer than those who don’t, according to a first-of-its-kind study from Western Australia’s Edith Cowan University.

In contrast, half of the grandparents who didn’t provide childcare died within five years of their first interview.

Saving on stress

Head researcher Dr David Coall said the team doesn’t know why caring for others – and expecting nothing in return – has a positive effect on lifespan.

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

He also highlighted the fact that people who need to care for others also have to look after themselves and stay in good health.

But there was a catch – a big one.

Always a catch

Other research conducted by the group found a negative impact on the physical and mental health of grandparents who care full-time for their grandchildren – in short, they died a lot sooner.

So how much care do you need to give to others to get the benefits?

Dr Coall said there is no ‘magic bullet’. “It is very important that every individual decides for themselves what ‘moderate amounts of help’ means,” he said.

I’ll take that as a cue to take the grandkids out for the day – and return them at the end.

Jill Donaldson

A practising aged care physiotherapist for the past 13 years, Jill has worked in more than 50 metropolitan and regional aged care homes. She has also toured care facilities across the US and Africa. She is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff that serve them.

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