BERLIN — Live long and prosper — by helping others. That’s according to a recent study led by researchers from a group of universities in Europe and Australia.
The study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, found that grandparents who provide care for their grandkids live longer than grandparents who aren’t as active. Similarly, older people who help take care of their peers live longer than those who don’t.
To reach their conclusion, researchers evaluated 500 people between 70 and 103 years old, using data from the Berlin Aging Study collected between 1990 and 2009. Grandparents who were primary caregivers for their grandchildren were not taken into account for the study.
What they found was quite significant: half of the grandparents who cared for their grandchildren lived about five years longer than those who didn’t. Participants who did not have grandchildren, but still supported their children through activities like housework also lived at least five years longer than those who didn’t.
Older adults who had no children, but aided others in their social network lived about three years longer than those who didn’t.
“But helping shouldn’t be misunderstood as a panacea for a longer life,” Ralph Hertwig, Director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development said in a release from the University of Basal. “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.”
So, for grandparents who want to stick around longer just to watch their grandkids achieve milestones in their lives — make sure you’re an active part of their upbringing and you’ll have a greater shot at being there for them as adults, too.