Elderly caregivers live up to five years longer: Aust'n study

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/1/11 10:09:13

Elderly people who care for others live longer than those who don't, an Australian study has found.

The study, released by Western Australia's (WA) Edith Cowan University (ECU) on Wednesday, found that grandparents who provide occasional care for their grandchildren live up to five years longer than those who don't.

The research found that half of the elderly people who provided occasional care for grandchildren or other members of the community lived for up to five more years after first being interviewed for the research.

Alternatively, half of those who did not provide care died within five years of the initial interview.

David Coall, a researcher from ECU's School of Medical and Health Sciences, said the study showed caregiving helped improve longevity among the elderly.

"This research shows the positive link between caregiving and a longer lifespan in older people however we can only speculate as to why," Coall said in a media release on Wednesday.

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

"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."

He said that the benefits of caregiving clearly extended beyond looking after grandchildren.

"Older people who cared for their own adult children or other members of the community showed the same increase in longevity," he said.

However, separate research conducted by Coall's team at ECU found that elderly people who cared for their grandchildren full-time exhibited negative physical and mental health impacts..

Coall said there was no strict limit for the amount of time an elderly person should care for another, rather that it depended on the person in each case.

"It is very important that every individual decides for themselves what 'moderate amounts of help' means," he said.

"As long as you do not feel stressed about the intensity of help you provide you may be doing something good for others as well as for yourself."

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