Looking after your grandkids can keep you from feeling lonely, say scientists…but looking after a spouse WON’T
- Scientists from King’s College London looked at the results of 28 studies
- Caring for children was linked to lower levels of loneliness in older people
- Volunteer work was also found to reduce feelings of isolation in most cases
- But the opposite effect was found among those who have to care for a partner
They say grandchildren keep you young.
Now scientists say they also keep you from feeling lonely.
According to a major study, people who take care of their grandchildren are much less likely to suffer from loneliness than those who take care of a spouse.
Scientists from King’s College London looked at the results of 28 global studies on the relationship between caregiving, volunteering activities and loneliness in people over 50.
People who care for grandchildren are far less likely to suffer from loneliness than those who care for a spouse, major study finds
They found that in six out of seven cases, caring for children – whether related or not – was linked to lower levels of loneliness in older people.
Volunteer work, such as helping out at a charity shop or church, was also found to reduce feelings of isolation in most cases.
But those who had to care for a partner or spouse were consistently associated with higher loneliness, often due to a health condition such as dementia.
Lead author, Samia Akhter-Khan of King’s College London, said: “Our findings suggest that caring for a partner with complex health conditions, particularly dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, is linked to higher levels of loneliness – while caring for children or doing volunteer work can help reduce loneliness in older people.
“There is an urgent need to identify people who may be more likely to feel lonely – and to develop targeted solutions to prevent and reduce loneliness in these population groups.”
Loneliness has been linked to a range of health problems, including an increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, dementia and depression.
The Campaign to End Loneliness said there are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK and 9 million people who are lonely, with an effect on health so significant it is comparable to smoking and obesity.
The researchers hope the findings, published in the journal Aging and Mental Health, will lead to further research to examine the barriers, opportunities and fulfillment 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 maximize their potential beneficial effects on combating loneliness in the over-50s.
“Respecting older people for their contributions and valuing their unpaid activities will likely play an important role in alleviating loneliness.”
Loneliness may be a good thing for older people, study finds
A little solitude can be a good thing for older people, according to startling research.
Experts from the University of Zurich asked 118 men and women over the age of 65 to use an app to record all social interactions for three weeks.
The results, published in the British Journal of Psychology, showed that the more time spent in solitude, the more time the volunteers spent socializing at the next opportunity.
The study found that older people need quiet time to recharge their batteries after mingling with others.
“Loneliness is an integral part of everyday life for older people, as it promotes energy recovery,” the researchers said.