MONDAY, June 18, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Caring for grandchildren generally won't have a negative effect on a grandmom or granddads' well-being, a new U.S. study says.
The findings by researchers at the University of Chicago and three other universities challenge the conclusions of numerous previous studies that suggested that the exertion and stress of caring for children could take a toll on grandparents' well-being.
But the authors of this new study -- which included almost 13,000 participants -- said that the previous studies looked at relatively small samples of grandparents. In addition, many of those studies included grandparents who cared for grandchildren whose mothers were in jail or taking drugs.
In this new study, the researchers found that 29 percent of the grandmothers and 22 percent of the grandfathers provided at least 50 hours of care per year for grandchildren who didn't live with them.
Seven percent of grandmothers and five percent of grandfathers lived with their children and grandchildren, and fewer than three percent of grandparents in the study lived in homes with grandchildren whose parents were not present.
The researchers said they did find that grandmothers who started looking after grandchildren whose parents were not present in the home did report some initial declines in some areas of their health.
"But those who continued with the arrangements saw a modest improvement, suggesting the negative effect of starting this kind of caregiving disappears as the arrangement continues," the study authors wrote.
"We find increases in depressive symptoms and declines in self-rated health for grandmothers who begin skipped generation care but no change in the other health dimensions we examined," the researchers added. "We find a small improvement in self-rated health for grandmothers who continue this kind of care."
There was no evidence of health declines among grandparents who provided other forms of care, such as baby-sitting, for their grandchildren.
The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Science.
The AARP has more about grandparenting.