If you’re a grandmother who loves spending time with your grandchildren, there is good news: caring for your grandkids may actually help boost your brainpower, according to a new study.
A study published earlier this month in the journal Menopause found that women who spend time caring for their grandchildren may experience mental benefits from that time. Researchers looked at 185 Australian women between the ages of 57 and 68. The women all took three tests of their mental abilities, like memory, processing speed, and multitasking, to determine whether or not babysitting had any effect on their skills.
They found that women who care for their grandchildren one day a week did the best on two of the three mental tests, while women who care for their grandchildren give or more days a week did worst on one specific test. Those women struggled the most with test that assessed their memory and mental processing speed.
In the study, researchers expressed their surprise at the results, but explained that it might be attributed to the additional burden that these women feel from the extra time spent caring for their grandchildren, compared to those who only provide care occasionally. Participants reported that the more time spent caring for their grandchildren, the more demands they felt from that position, indicating that mood may play a role in the cognitive changes.
Social engagement is often studied as a way to help improve cognitive abilities in aging individuals, but this study is the first to specifically look at the part that babysitting plays in that interaction and whether or not it also has an effect on brainpower. Though the study produced interesting results, researchers noted that it only provides correlation, not causation. Still, an important takeaway from the study is to not overdo it when it comes to providing care for others.
Much like care giving for those who need long term care, providing too much can exhaust the caregiver and end up having a negative effect, compared to those who provide care on a less frequent basis and actually get positive benefits from their experience. Read more about the impact of caregiver burden here.