Longevity Boosted When Caring For Sick Spouse

Mar 27, 2009 by

Longevity Boosted When Caring For Sick Spouse

No man is an island, and humans are social, emotional creatures. Here, an interesting study describes how caring for a sick spouse helps to boost one’s longevity.

Whether it is because it makes us feel useful, or it makes us happy, or it gives us a purpose in life, or some other reason, this gives us evidence of a very tangible health benefit of loving, sharing, caring and giving.

Caring for Spouse Lengthens Life

by Reuben Chow

Wise men throughout the ages have taught us the value of giving and sharing. And, on our wedding day, we vow to take care of our spouses “in sickness and in heath, till death do us part”. Now, a recent study has given us a piece of empirical evidence in support of the wisdom of the seemingly paradoxical phrase, “when you give, you receive”. The interesting study, conducted at the University of Michigan, found that older people who spent at least 14 hours each week taking care of a disabled spouse lived longer than their counterparts who did not.

Details of Study

For the study, researchers looked at 7 years of data collected from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging and covered Americans aged 70 and higher. In all, the habits and lifespan of 1,688 couples who lived on their own were analyzed.

The study started in 1993. At that point, the study participants reported on how much help they got from their spouse with regard to daily activities. These included eating, dressing, bathing, preparing meals, managing money and taking medications. 81% or so said they did not receive any help, 9% said they got less than 14 hours of help per week, while the remaining 10% reported getting 14 hours or more of help every week.

Findings of Study

In the course of the study, 909 of the subjects, about a quarter of the group, passed on. After factors such as health, age, race, gender, education and employment status were accounted for, the research team found that those who cared for their spouses the most (quantitatively, in terms of the number of hours) were significantly less likely to have passed on during the period of the study.

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