Want to live longer? This may be the key
Caring for grandchildren has been shown to have some positive benefits for seniors, like improved cognitive function and a lower risk of depression. And now, a study suggests that taking care of others may help you live longer, too.
Researchers from the University of Basel looked at data for more than 500 people between the ages of 70 and 103 years old. Participants were followed over a 20-year period.
Overall, researchers found that part-time caregivers were more likely to live 7 to 10 years longer than their peers who did not care for others.
The benefits held whether someone was caring for a family member, like a grandchild, or someone they were not related to, like a friend or neighbor.
“As people age, their social connections naturally weaken – they retire from full-time work, friends move or pass away and health issues may limit their mobility,” says Sue Harvey, RN, and NICHE coordinator for Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “Caring for others could help provide a needed social outlet and increased physical activity, so it’s not surprising that part-time caregiving could help boost their health and longevity.”
The researchers were careful to draw a distinction between part-time and full-time caregiving, however.
Working as a full-time caregiver has been linked to a number of negative outcomes, such as increased stress and anxiety. One study reported that 80 percent of full-time caregivers reported having unmet personal needs as they juggle caregiving with obligations to their jobs and families.
“Today, more than 40 million Americans serve as unpaid caregivers to family and friends. As with many things in life, balance is important,” says Harvey. “If you are giving so much to others that you begin to neglect your own needs, you may end up harming your health rather than helping it.”
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