It turns out that leaving your kids with your parents so you can enjoy some alone time isn’t only good for your social life, but it’s also good for your parents’ long-term health.
Start planning a date night, because you just might have plenty of grandparents lining up to volunteer as babysitters and you have science to thank for it.
A new study published in Evolution and Human Behavior, revealed that grandparents who watch their grandchildren occasionally live significantly longer lives. Really! The researchers analyzed over 20 years of worth of data gathered from studying 500 seniors aged 70 and older. They found that grandparents who provided some form of care to their grandchildren had a lower risk of death over a 20-year period than those who did not offer to get the kids to bed one night so mommy and daddy could go out for a dinner that didn’t include chicken tenders.
The study specifically excluded grandparents who were the primary caregivers for their grandbabies and still found a strong correlation to longer lives. Grandparents who were just occasional babysitters had a 37 percent lower mortality risk than those grandparents who did not babysit. It doesn’t have to be grandparents, either. Researchers found that the benefits extended to any older adult who watched kids occasionally.
As for why this is true, scientists are still trying to figure that out. It may be that chasing after toddlers or managing homework time helps keep grandparents active, which is one key to a longer life. Geriatric medicine specialist Dr. Ronan Factora thinks it may have something to do with reducing stress. “There is a link between providing this care and reducing stress and we know the relationship between stress and higher risk of dying,” said Dr. Factora in a statement on the Cleveland Clinic’s website. “If providing care to grandchildren and others in need is one way that can actually reduce stress, then these activities should be of benefit to folks who are grandparents and provide this care to their grandkids.”
This doesn’t mean you should hand your kids over to their grandparents every single day, though. Dr. Factora notes that too much caregiving can be overwhelming for older people, which could create stress. Like with all good things in life (cake, wine, free babysitting) it’s a question of striking the right balance.
Still, science doesn’t lie. So, print out this article, send it to your nearest grandparents, and start planning your next big night out.