FRIDAY, April 11, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Spending a little time each week caring for grandkids may help older women stay mentally sharp, a new study finds.
But there's a potential downside: Taking care of the grandkids five days a week or more may have a negative impact on brain power, the researchers reported.
The study included 186 Australian women, aged 57 to 68, who took three different tests of mental acuity. Those who spent one day a week looking after grandchildren did best on two of the three tests.
However, those who looked after grandchildren for five or more days a week did worse on one of the tests, which evaluated memory and mental processing speed.
The researchers were surprised by this result, but also discovered that the more time grandmothers spent taking care of grandkids, the more they felt that their children placed greater demands on them. So mood may be a factor in the unexpected finding, the study authors suggested.
While the study found an association between the amount of time caring for grandchildren and mental sharpness in older women, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The study was published online April 8 in the journal Menopause.
Previous research has examined the link between older people's mental sharpness and their levels of social contact, but this is believed to be the first study to look at the effects of looking after grandchildren.
"Because grandmothering is such an important and common social role for postmenopausal women, we need to know more about its effects on their future health. This study is a good start," Dr. Margery Gass, executive director of the North American Menopause Society, said in a society news release.
The U.S. Office on Women's Health offers advice for grandparents raising grandchildren.
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