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Grandparents May Live Longer if They Help Out With Grandkids (Seriously!)

New research offers another reason to call Grandma and Grandpa the next time you need help with the kids.

grandparents and two grandkids Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
There's a new reason for grandparents to help out with babysitting! According to new research out of Switzerland and Germany, and published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, grandparents who help out with grandchildren live longer than those who don't. Please hold while I phone my mom to ask if she can come over and distract the kids so I can shower, stat!

Researchers looked at 500 older people between the ages of 70 and 103. The goal was to understand the differences between those who provided occasional childcare, those who never did, and those who were not grandparents, but provided care for others within their social network, according to Science Daily.

Older people who provided care for grandkids lived longer. Half were alive 10 years after the initial interview in 1990. Meanwhile, half of the older people who did not provide help for anyone had passed away five years post-interview. Older people without grandkids lived longer when they cared for other people's kids, living about three years longer than those who didn't care for anyone.

The idea seems to be that caring for others gives older people a reason to live longer. But there can be too much of a good thing. As Ralph Hertwig, director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, explains, "Helping shouldn't be misunderstood as a panacea for a longer life. 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 in other words, we have to give grandparents a break once in a while!

This study adds to a growing body of research that seniors who spend time with grandkids benefit when it comes to their own health.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.