Bonding With Older Grandkids May Prevent Depression

grandparentsSure, those grandbabies are cute, but a close bond with your adult grandchildren can help reduce depression for both of you – and the closer the bond, the more antidepression benefits there are, a new study finds.

Much has been written about grandparents helping with - or even raising - young grandchildren. Yet “[w]e know relatively little about what grandparents and grandchildren do for each other on a daily basis during the grandchildren’s adulthood,” Boston College sociologist Sara Moorman, Ph.D., told the New York Times.

For her study, presented at last week’s annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Moorman and coauthor Jeffrey Stokes looked at 20 years of survey data from the Longitudinal Study of Generations, a survey of three- and four-generation U.S. families.

Their sample included 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren. The average grandparent was born in 1917; the average grandchild, in 1963 – making them 77 years old and 31 years old, respectively, at the midpoint of the study, in 1994.

What Moorman and Stokes found was that grandparents who got help from their grandchildren but didn’t give any in return had the greatest increase in depression. Those grandparents, however, who did give in return – some advice, a little money or a gift – reported the greatest mental health benefit.

In other words, “[w]hen [grandparents] can’t give back, that’s depressing,” Moorman explained.

“There’s a saying, ‘It’s better to give than to receive,’” she added. “Our results support that folk wisdom – if a grandparent gets help but can’t give it, he or she feels badly. Grandparents expect to be able to help their grandchildren, even when their grandchildren are grown, and it’s frustrating and depressing for them to instead be dependent on their grandchildren.”

Plus, the greater emotional support grandparents and adult grandchildren got from each other, “the better their psychological health.” Those  who reported having a close bond were less likely to report feeling lonely or sad, and to experience a lack of energy or sleeplessness.

Moorman acknowledged that most of us were raised to be solicitous of our elders and to help them out as much as possible, though, as she told CBS News, “all people benefit from feeling needed, worthwhile and independent.”

And for grown-up grandkids, she had this advice: “Let Granddad write you a check on your birthday, even if he’s on Social Security and you’ve held a real job for years now.”

Photo: ryanrocketship via flickr