Taking grandchildren out of school may benefit mental health, study suggests | Loneliness

Putting grandchildren in preschools and picking them up from school can help prevent loneliness, research shows.

The study, a review of previous studies involving nearly 200,000 participants in 21 countries, suggested that regularly caring for grandchildren has positive impacts on mental well-being, including feeling less isolated and more fulfilled.

In contrast, those who cared for a partner with an illness or disability were associated with more feelings of loneliness, highlighting the added burden on older unpaid carers.

Samia Akhter-Khan, a PhD student at King’s College London and first author of the study, said: “We see these fairly clear consistent findings that grandparenting or caregiving to unrelated children has this positive effect, while spousal caregiving had a negative effect. on loneliness.”

The team reviewed 28 previous studies involving 191,652 people over 50 in 21 countries, including the UK, and examined the link between loneliness and unpaid care. One study found that adults over the age of 60 who cared for grandchildren an average of 12 hours a week felt lonely 60% less often than non-caregivers, and other research revealed similar trends.

“While caring for grandchildren may involve some of the same time-consuming activities as caring for an older adult, such as bathing and feeding, children are integrated into a care network that usually involves parents and institutions, such as schools,” the authors write. .

Volunteering for a range of activities, including social and environmental causes, was also associated with less loneliness. In contrast, caring for a sick spouse or relative was consistently linked to higher levels of loneliness and isolation. The authors suggest that caring for a partner can be isolating when faced with “a lack of support from other people or organizations” and often people have no choice whether to become a caregiver in this scenario. It can also be “a preparation for the transition to widowhood”.

The authors highlight “the stark contrast between different realities of care”, where it is a costly and burdensome activity in some contexts and rewarding and meaningful in others. They add that the role of older adults as caregivers needed more recognition.

“Older people are usually portrayed as the recipients of care and a cost to society in terms of money for pensions and health problems,” said Akhter-Khan. “But they really make an important contribution in the field of care and volunteering. They are really valuable to our society.”

The findings are published in the journal Aging and Mental Health.

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