Hands-on grandparents are happier and more socially active

Dec 19, 2019
A new study has found caring for grandkids can boost wellbeing and provide more opportunities to extend the social circle. Source: Getty

Being a grandparent is one of life’s greatest joys – you get to be there to experience the fun parts like spoiling them with lollies, and avoid the bad parts like the sugar-induced tantrums which follow.

But taking care of the grandkids has much greater benefits than simply putting a smile on your face for a few hours, with new research revealing it can do wonders for your health and wellbeing. The study carried out by the Hamburg-Eppendorf University Hospital found caring for a grandchild is linked to a lower risk of loneliness and social isolation.

While years ago lots of parents chose to send their children to day care, many are now relying on their parents to look after them, as childcare costs continue to rise. It’s the perfect way for to save money, while also giving grandkids the chance to bond with their grandparents.

And it seems the interaction is providing even greater benefits for grandparents, with it being linked to giving them more opportunities to make new friends and extend their social circle.

As part of the study, published in BMJ Open, researchers asked 3,800 grandparents, aged between 40 and 85, a series of questions designed to assess their feelings of loneliness and social isolation. The participants marked each question a score from one to four, with one representing strong agreement and four representing strong disagreement.

The higher the overall score, the higher degree of perceived loneliness and social isolation the person was experiencing.

Researchers found those who assisted in caring for their grandchildren – but who weren’t primary caregivers – had an average loneliness score of 1.7 out of four and maintained regular contact with six other people who mattered to them.

Meanwhile, grandparents who didn’t have an active caring role had higher average loneliness scores and were in regular contact with fewer people important to them.

Although the study didn’t collect information on how near to their grandchildren grandparents lived, how often they provided care, or its quality, researchers said the results suggest interaction between the two has great benefits to the wellbeing of seniors.

“Assisting their families to balance work and family by providing supplementary grandchild care may boost grandparents’ self-esteem, and may also facilitate ongoing positive relationships with their children and grandchildren,” researchers said.

“Moreover, caring for grandchildren may also expand the social circle of grandparents and allow for further opportunities to establish relationships with other parents or grandparents.”

However, the study also stressed the importance of giving grandparents a break from caring duties every now and then. According to researchers, the positive impact of caring for grandkids might wear off if grandparents are called upon too often, especially if it interferes with other aspects of their lives.

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