New research published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior suggests that seniors who occasionally help care for grandkids tend to live longer than seniors who do not care for young relatives. Study participants who did not have grandchildren but supported others in their community like adult children or neighbors also tended to live longer than those who did not support their communities.
The study examined more than 500 people from age 70 to 103, with participants completing interviews and medical tests every two years from 1990 to 2009. Researchers found that over the 20-year period, the risk of death was one-third lower for grandparents who occasionally cared for their grandkids compared with grandparents who did not care for their grandkids. On the other hand, researchers found that about half of the participants who did not help others died within five years of the start of the study.
Lead study author Sonja Hilbrand, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Basel in Switzerland, explained that having no contact with grandchildren can negatively affect the health of grandparents. However, the study did not include grandparents who were the primary caregivers of their grandchildren—only those who cared for grandkids sometimes.