Sunday, May 10, 2009

Caring for an Ill Partner May Extend Your Life

We know how stressful providing care can be, especially if it's your partner who is ill. Here is info from a study reported on MSNBC that found that caregiving may actually lead to a longer life for the caregiver.

What do you think?

To see if caregiving was truly beneficial to the caregiver, Stephanie Brown (a social psychologist and an assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at the University of Michigan) and her colleagues scrutinized data from 1,688 couples who were at least 70 years old. Over a seven year period, the elderly couples were surveyed four times. During each survey, husbands and wives were asked whether they either provided or received help with such daily activities as eating, dressing, bathing, walking across the room, or using the toilet. They were also asked who performed household tasks such as grocery shopping, managing money and meal preparation.

Brown and her colleagues found that if you accounted for the negative impact of stressing over a loved one’s illness, that caregiving actually led to longer life. During the course of the study, people who spent at least 14 hours a week caring for a sick spouse were almost 30 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who spent no time helping, according to the research recently published in Psychological Science.

The research by Brown and her colleagues fits in with results from studies showing that animals release higher levels of a hormone called oxytocin when they are parenting. That hormone leads to lower levels of stress-linked substances, Brown says. It also makes sense in light of studies showing that people who volunteer tend to live longer than those who don’t, she adds.


Kerry said...

Thank you Barbara for sharing this study. I worry much about my hubby and now maybe I can turn that around and think about the wonders of the oxytocin his caring for me is doing for him!

Barbara K. said...

Thanks for your thought Kerry. Caregiving can be draining at times - but that's not all it is.