Grandparent, Grandchild Bond May Fight Depression

CompassBy Bonnie Dickson

Need another reason to consider moving in with your children?  It sounds counter-intuitive but if you want to stay mentally healthy, scientists say, spend time with your grandchildren. A study that looked at grandchildren-grandparent relationships over a period of two decades found measurable consequences on the mental well-being of both grandparents and grandchildren.

On a trip to Northwest Trek last month, my great-nephew, Ethan went zip lining with my sister (his grandmother) while his great-grandparents stayed safely on the ground and called encouragement and took pictures.  While we walked around the exhibits later on, the four of us talked about how unusual it was that Ethan had relationships with not just grandparents and great-grandparents but also a great-great grandparent.  Ethan, who is going into the 5th grade, doesn’t know of any other kids in his class that still have that many generations alive in their family.  While it’s a bit unusual, the fact is that for  the first time ever in history, people are reaching middle aged and still having living grandparents.  That unusual occurrence provides an opportunity scientists haven’t had the ability to study before, namely how those extended relationships impact our lives.

Researchers say that the relationship between extended family members may be increasingly more important and can make a measurable difference in how effectively both generations ward off depression: the closer the relationship the greater the benefits.  The greatest benefits existed for grandparents who were able to not only receive assistance but also reciprocate indicating that even as adults, grandchildren need to be willing to accept gifts or advice in return for their own contributions to their elder’s independence.

The data was presented at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. The research is considered preliminary since it has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Bonnie Dickson writes for Seattle-area Elder Law Attorney Rajiv Nagaich. She has been writing about seniors and senior-related issues for nearly 10 years.

This article originally appeared on the Aging Options website here.
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