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[GRAND TIMES!] Caring for grandchildren, not spouse, can boost well-being

Volunteering and caring for grandchildren protect older adults from loneliness while caregiving for a spouse or partner is linked to higher loneliness, according to a team of experts led by researchers at King’s College London. The authors say the results highlight a need to develop targeted interventions to combat loneliness for older adults who are caring for their partner or spouse. The findings were published in the journal Aging and Mental Health.

Reviewing data from 28 studies encompassing close to 200,000 participants from 21 countries, -- including the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and China, among others -- the authors found that:

- Caring for grandchildren (or other unrelated children) was linked with lower loneliness in six out of seven studies.

- Providing care to a partner or spouse was consistently associated with higher loneliness.

- Five out of six studies reported a relationship between volunteering and lower levels of loneliness.

Further research is needed to investigate the needs of older caregivers – as well as to examine the barriers, opportunities, and fulfilment of engaging in meaningful activities, according to the authors. 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.

The authors note that all the studies included in the review were conducted in higher income countries and before the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to an increase in the number of people experiencing loneliness.

To read the article, “Caregiving, volunteering and loneliness in middle-aged and older adults: a systematic review,” click here

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