Grandmothers that babysit regularly suffer chronic stress
In a study that raises potentially troubling questions about the burden of child care on grandparents, Harvard University researchers found a 55 percent greater risk of heart disease among grandmothers who care for their grandchildren. During that four-year period there were 321 cases of heart disease, including 231 non-fatal heart attacks and 90 deaths.
Researchers believe the cause may be added wear and tear that child care puts on an elderly body. The study found heightened risks from as little as nine hours each week spent looking after a child.
The study focuses on 13,392 women caring for grandchildren (the women were all around age 60). All were registered nurses; nearly half still worked full time while the rest had retired or were working limited hours. Looking at the women's health records, researchers found:
Working grandmothers did not have higher heart disease risk than stay-at-home grandmothers.
Chronic stress from regular child care is likely the problem. "It's not like they take care of the children for awhile, then the kids are gone," says author Sunmin Lee, an epidemiologist with Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "For most of these grandmothers, this is a daily responsibility. We know that chronic stress is bad for heart health. Stress raises blood pressure, causes wear and tear on arteries, and leads to heart disease."
The time commitment also eats up grandmother's time for regular health-care checkups, exercise, and other habits of a healthy lifestyle, says Lee.
Source: Laura Johannes, Babysitting May Be Hazardous To Grandmother's Health, Wall Street Journal, October 31, 2003 and Jeanie Lerche Davis, Child Care Can Tax Grandma's Health: Stress, Unhealthy Lifestyle, Lead To Heart Disease, WebMD Medical News, October 30, 2003.
For text (WSJ subscription required)
For WebMD text http://my.webmd.com/content/article/76/90052.htm?z=3734_00000_1000_ts_02
For more on Child Care http://www.ncpa.org/iss/wel/
FMF Policy Bulletin/ 4 November 2003
Publish date: 13 November 2003
The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation.