Providing care for ailing spouse can lengthen your life, study finds

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Caring for an elderly, ailing loved one can take an emotional toll, but it also may add years to your life, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

Caregivers may actually benefit from providing care under some circumstances, according to the study's lead author, Stephanie Brown. Brown and her team studied seven years worth of data collected on 1,688 elderly couples and the level of care provided by a spouse. Most couples—81%—reported no spousal assistance with activities of daily living, 9% reported fewer than 14 hours of caregiving per week, and 10% reported more than 14 hours.

During the course of the study, 27% of the study participants died. After adjusting for a variety of factors including health, age, race, gender and education, Brown and her team found that those who gave more than 14 hours a week in care to a spouse were significantly less likely to have died during the study. Brown speculates that one reason might be that actively helping someone you love reduces some of the stress of seeing that person suffer. The full study will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science.
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