Time spent with grandchildren pays off, study suggests

Spending time with grandchildren has long been a hallmark of senior living, and a new study suggests these strong bonds could be good for the mental health of both parties. Researchers from the Institute on Aging at Boston College found that grandparents and grandchildren who had positive relationships experienced fewer symptoms of depression and enjoyed positive emotional benefits even after the child had entered adulthood.

The findings were presented recently at the meeting of the American Sociological Association. Study authors relied on data from the Longitudinal Study of Generations and specifically, a group of 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren. In addition to finding that both generations saw a reduced risk of depression if they shared a strong relationship, researchers discovered that if there was tangible support given, including providing rides, financial help or assistance around the house, grandparents saw improved psychological well-being.

"There's a saying, 'It's better to give than to receive.' Our results support that folk wisdom - if a grandparent gets help, but can't give it, he or she feels badly," said study author Sara M. Moorman. "Grandparents expect to be able to help their grandchildren, even when their grandchildren are grown, and it's frustrating and depressing for them to instead be dependent on their grandchildren."

It should come as no surprise that spending time building family connections offers health benefits, especially given the results of the recent United States of Aging Survey conducted by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), UnitedHealthcare and USA Today. Researchers found that relationships with family and friends were more important to adults age 60 and older than financial concerns. In fact, 40 percent said relationships had the heaviest impact on their quality of life.