Looking after your grandkids can stop you getting lonely, scientists say… but caring for a spouse WON’T
- Scientists at King’s College London looked at the findings from 28 studies
- Caring for children was linked to lower levels of loneliness in older people
- Voluntary work was also found to cut feelings of isolation in most cases
- But opposite effect was found among those having to look after a partner
It’s said that grandchildren keep you young.
Now scientists say they stop you getting lonely too.
People who look after their grandkids are far less likely to suffer from loneliness than those who care for a spouse, according to a major review.
Scientists at King’s College London looked at the findings from 28 worldwide studies on the relationship between care giving, volunteering activities and loneliness in over-50s.
People who look after their grandkids are far less likely to suffer from loneliness than those who care for a spouse, according to a major review
They found in six out of seven cases, caring for children – whether related or not – was linked to lower levels of loneliness in older people.
Voluntary work, such as helping at a charity shop or church, was also found to cut feelings of isolation in most cases.
But those having to look after a partner or spouse was consistently associated with higher loneliness, often because of a health condition such as dementia.
Lead author, Samia Akhter-Khan of King’s College London, said: ‘Our findings suggest that providing care to a partner with complex health conditions, particularly dementia or Alzheimer’s, is related to higher levels of loneliness – whereas caring for children or volunteering can help reduce loneliness in older adults.
‘There is a pressing need to identify people who may be more vulnerable to feeling lonely – and to develop targeted solutions to prevent and reduce loneliness in these population groups.’
Loneliness has been linked to a raft of health problems including an increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, dementia and depression.
The Campaign to End Loneliness said there are 1.2million chronically lonely older people in the UK and 9million lonely people, with the effect so great on health it is comparable to smoking and obesity.
Researchers hope the findings, published in the journal Aging and Mental Health, will lead to further research to examine the barriers, opportunities, and fulfilment of engaging in meaningful activities.
Dr Matthew Prina, head of the social epidemiology research group at King’s College London, said: ‘This could help shed light on the optimal “dose” of volunteering and caring for grandchildren and identify ways to maximise their potential beneficial effects on combating loneliness in the over 50s.
‘Respecting older adults for their contributions and valuing their unpaid activities will likely play an important role in mitigating loneliness.’