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Grandparents who babysit live longer, study shows
Grandparents can often serve as a lifeline for exhausted parents, but it turns out, regular babysitting can actually help seniors live longer. - photo by Jessica Ivins
BERLIN Grandparents can often serve as a lifeline for exhausted parents, but it turns out, regular babysitting can actually help seniors live longer.

Thats according to researchers behind a new study, who found that grandparents who help out with their grandchildren enjoy longer lives than those who dont.

The study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, looked at data gathered in the Berlin Aging Study. That study followed 500 seniors ages 70 and older between 1990 and 2009.

Researchers looked at three specific groups grandparents who occasionally helped out with their grandkids, seniors who had some caregiving responsibilities for non-family members and seniors who did not serve as caregivers for anyone else.

Ultimately, mortality rates among grandparents who helped out with childcare throughout the 20-year study were 37 percent lower than grandparents who did not.

This link could be a mechanism deeply rooted in our evolutionary past when help with childcare was crucial for the survival of the human species, Sonja Hilbrand lead study author and University of Basel doctoral psychology student told the Daily Mail.

Researchers said caring for others can boost the mental and physical health of seniors thus contributing to a longer life.

There is a link between providing this care and reducing stress and we know the relationship between stress and higher risk of dying, Dr. Ronan Factora with the Cleveland Clinic told CBS Chicago. If providing care to grandchildren and others in need is one way that can actually reduce stress, then these activities should be of benefit to folks who are grandparents and provide this care to their grandkids.

But lest parents use the findings as an excuse to ask grandma and grandpa to move in full time, experts say there is a fine line.

You want to make sure that you find the right balance where you are doing what you can to stay active, doing good for the folks that youre helping out with, but dont do too much where you get to the point where youre overly stressed, Factora said.

Grandparents who served as primary caregivers to their grandchildren were not included in the study. In fact, researchers said that type of responsibility could be detrimental to the health of the grandparents.

Whether or not caregiving is beneficial for the helper depends on the level of caregiving, researchers wrote. Social strain resulting from extensive caregiving can cancel out potential beneficial effects for the helper.
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