Strong Bonds Between Grandchildren, Grandparents Offer Mental Health Benefits

Julia Little  |  September 20, 2013

Seniors with grandchildren often relish spending time with their favorite youngsters, and new research suggests doing so may be good for their health. Scientists from Boston College's Institute on Aging found that grandchildren and grandparents who have strong relationships both experience a decreased risk of developing symptoms of depression, according to results presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The study relied on data from the Longitudinal Study of Generations concerning 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren. Not only did researchers determine that both generations reap mental health benefits from forming strong bonds, but they discovered that when grandparents either provided or received tangible support - which included providing rides to the store or helping around the house - their psychological well-being improved even more.

"We found that an emotionally close grandparent-adult grandchild relationship was associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations," said Sara M. Moorman, who presented the study at the conference. "The greater emotional support grandparents and adult grandchildren received from one another, the better their psychological health."

Experts say the findings should encourage families to focus on more than just the nuclear family. Including extended members in day-to-day activities, notably grandchildren and grandparents, can have significant, tangible benefits for everyone, the study authors suggest. 

Of course, forming a strong bond with grandchildren is not always easy. It can be difficult to involve them in senior living, but there are a number of activities that are perfect for both grandparents and grandkids, especially during the summer months. Even simple activities such as riding bikes or swimming can not only strengthen the intergenerational relationship, but will also help both family members stay healthy.

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