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Caring For Spouses And Others May Help Us Live Longer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Caring For Spouse

A new study from the University of Michigan shows that caring for spouses, and others may help us live longer. The research shows there may be genuine health benefits associated with altruistic behavior.

Researchers recently explored how caring promotes a longer life by examining seniors who provided spousal support in the home. Past studies have shown that caregivers may experience negative health impacts, while other studies show that caring for others can prolong life. Did you know that children are naturally moral and caring?

The research group, lead by Stephanie Brown, says, "These findings suggest that caregivers may actually benefit from providing care under some circumstances."

Brown and colleagues studied 1,688 independent seniors, age 70 and older, examining seven years of data. The group compiled information submitted by the couples revealing how much support they received from their spouses. Activities such as helping with meal preparation, dressing, bathing, eating and taking medications were included.

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Ten percent of the couples received 14 hours or more of help from their spouses – 81 percent received no support, and 9 percent received less than 14 hours of assistance.

During the study, 909 people died. After the researchers adjusted for other contributing factors, they found that those who cared for their spouses for at least 14 hours per week lived longer.

Dr. Brown believes that caring behavior is a strong evolutionary force that we all possess. Interdependence may promote a longer life. She feels the study adds to a growing body of evidence that shows the positive effects of caregiving. "There is growing recognition that economic decisions may be influenced by complex motivations, not limited to self-interest," says Brown.

In 2009, Dr. Brown and colleagues plan to explore exactly how caring for others promotes health. Brown suggests…" it could be that helping another person, especially someone you love, relieves some of the harmful stress effects of seeing that person suffer." The group plans to focus on the neuro-affective mechanisms of caring behaviors The group concluded that caring for an ailing spouse may actually benefit health and help us live longer.

In sickness and health: Caring for ailing spouse may prolong your life
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