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Best news ever: Babysitting is good for grandparents

Good news for those of us who rely on grandparents to help us out with child care: We’re actually doing them a favor.

It’s true. According to a recent study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, looking after your beloved grandkids can add five years to your life. We might feel as if we’ve aged decades since our kids invaded our lives, but seemingly, it has the opposite effect on the older generation.

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Researchers analyzed data collected between 1990 and 2009 on the lifespans of over 500 people from Germany and Switzerland between the ages of 70 and 103 years old. They noted that the study only shows an association between caring and a longer life without proving a cause and effect relationship, but hey — that’s good enough for us.

However, before we start filling up our parents’ calendars with playdates and sleepovers, the author of the study has a word of caution.

“Helping shouldn’t be misunderstood as a panacea for a longer life,” Ralph Hertwig wrote in a statement. “A moderate level of caregiving involvement does seem to have positive effects on health. But previous studies have shown that more intense involvement causes stress, which has negative effects on physical and mental health.”

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But wait; there’s more. A 2014 study carried out by the Women’s Health Aging Project in Australia suggested that babysitting grandchildren could lower a woman’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders. Research carried out in 2013 said a strong adult grandchild-grandparent relationship lowered the risk of depression for both parties, which supports the case for nurturing that relationship during the child’s early years.

It’s good to know that grandparents can benefit from spending time with their grandkids as much as the children do. And it does make it slightly easier to ask them to step into the parenting role for the occasional night. (Weekend? Week or two?) 

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