Critter Corner: Do Caregivers Have a Higher Life-Expectancy?

Dear Magic,

I read somewhere that caregivers have a higher life-expectancy than non-caregivers. With all of the stress that goes into caregiving, how can this be true?

Thanks for your help!

Liv Longer 

Dear Liv,

What you read is true! Studies show that by helping others, we’re actually helping ourselves, too.

There is Great Satisfaction in Caregiving

It’s true that although caregiving can be rewarding, it can also be exhausting and mentally draining. The responsibility for looking after others increases stress levels, impacts our careers and finances, and leaves us short on time to care for other members of our families. Yet, there is great satisfaction in caring for our loved ones when they need us most.

There is a benefit of being a caregiver that has been overlooked until recently. In a recent study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, caregivers were found to have a higher life expectancy than non-caregivers. In fact, figures revealed that those caring for their loved ones had 18% less chance of dying in the following six-year period than non-caregivers.

The More Intense the Caregiving, the MorePhysical and Mental Strength the Caregiver Has

How can the stresses and strains of caring for others add years to your life? In a study of 900 female caregivers, the caregivers had impressive memory recall, more physical strength in their grip, a faster walking pace, and could rise from a chair more easily than non-caregivers. In fact, the more intense the caregiving, the more physical and mental strength the caregiver had. Having such characteristics can lead to longevity and a better quality of life.

Of course, any study needs to take into account that those who care for their loved ones often do so because they have the physical and mental strength in the first place, which means it stands to reason they would be more fit both physically and mentally. Nevertheless, caregiving can affect us positively.

Focusing on Others Helps Our Bodies and Minds Respond in Positive Ways

According to the researchers of the study described above, “Caregiving often requires complex thought. Caregivers monitor medications, they juggle schedules, they may take over financial responsibilities. By focusing on others, our mind and body respond in a positive way.”

Remember, while these studies offer a positive look at caregiving, it’s important to bear in mind that those who are looking after the sick, disabled, and elderly need a lot of support, too.

Hope this is helpful!

Magic

Leave a comment