Unexpected finding: Caring for ailing spouse may prolong your life



Over the past two decades, the number of adults consuming sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, fruit drinks and punches has increased dramatically, according to a study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Researchers examined changes over the past two decades in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption based on nationally representative

Full Post: Sales of soft drinks in U.S. increased dramatically in last twenty years

Older people who spent at least 14 hours a week taking care of a disabled spouse lived longer than others.

That is the unexpected finding of a University of Michigan study forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The study supports earlier research showing that in terms of health and longevity, it really is better to give than to receive.

“These findings suggest that caregivers may actually benefit from providing care under some circumstances,” said U-M researcher Stephanie Brown, lead author of the study report. “Previous studies have documented negative health effects of caregiving. But the current results show that it is time to disentangle the presumed stress of providing help from the stress of witnessing a loved one suffer.”

Brown is an assistant professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and a faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). She is also affiliated with the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Hospital.

For the study, Brown and colleagues reviewed seven years of data from the U-M Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative sample of Americans age 70 and older. The analysis focused on 1,688 couples, all of whom lived on their own.

At the start of the study in 1993, both members of each couple reported how much help they received from their spouse with a long list of everyday activities. These included eating, dressing and bathing, preparing meals, managing money and taking medications.

The vast majority - approximately 81 percent - said they received no help at all from their spouse. Another nine percent reported getting less than 14 hours of help a week, and the remaining ten percent reported getting 14 hours of help or more each week.

Over the course of the study, 909 people died - about 27 percent of the study population. After controlling for health, age, race, gender, education, employment status and net worth, Brown and colleagues found that the individuals who provided at least 14 hours of care a week to their spouses were significantly less likely to have died during the study period than those who provided no spousal care.

The results of this study add to a growing literature on the positive, beneficial health effects of caregiving, helping and altruism, according to Brown. Her own earlier work has shown that providing social support to friends, relatives and neighbors has a beneficial impact on mortality and on coping with spousal loss.

Brown has a theory about why this is the case. Rather than assuming that humans are selfish and necessarily act only on the basis of rational self-interest, she believes that strong evolutionary forces favor altruistic motivation when individuals are interdependent.

“There is growing recognition that economic decisions may be influenced by complex motivations, not limited to self-interest,” she said. “We don’t know yet exactly how caregiving motivation and behavior might influence health, but it could be that helping another person - especially someone you love - relieves some of the harmful stress effects of seeing that person suffer.”

With support from the National Science Foundation, Brown will examine how altruistic, helpful behavior, including caregiving, enhances well-being. Starting in 2009, this research will focus on the neuro-affective mechanisms of helping behavior.

http://www.umich.edu/

Link




With the economy continuing it’s downward turn, family caregivers are stepping up to the plate to help loved ones in need. A new AARP report found the value of unpaid family caregiving in Illinois hits over $17 billion, more than a $1 billion increase since 2006. While nearly 1.5 million family and friends in the

Full Post: AARP report finds value of unpaid family caregiving in Illinois hits over $17 billion



Purdue University scientists found that mice raised in cages may relieve stress with behaviors associated with mice in the wild. And for researchers using lab mice, this may mean that by allowing mice to express these behaviors they can conduct research with animals that act and respond more naturally, hopefully making research data more reliable.

Full Post: Stress relief: Lab mice that exercise control may be more normal



Heart disease patients living in poorer areas of B.C. are up to twice as likely to die from chronic diseases than patients living in better-off areas, a University of British Columbia study has found. The research, released this week in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE , found coronary-artery disease patients living in

Full Post: Mortality rates higher for heart disease patients in neighbourhoods with poor socioeconomics status



Short term counselling followed by a modest cut in work hours may help reduce emotional exhaustion (burnout) and sick leave in doctors, according to a study published on bmj.com. It is well known that doctors have higher rates of depression and suicide than the general population and are less likely to seek help. There have

Full Post: Study looks at ways to improve doctors well-being



One quarter of all family caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease patients succumb to the stress of providing care to a loved one and become hospital patients themselves, according to an Indiana University study published in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine, the

Full Post: Study finds 25% of family caregivers of AD patients go to ER or are hospitalized