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The health burden of raising a grandchild
Date:11/7/2008

Precautionary health measures such as mammograms and cholesterol tests that identify the risk of heart disease are critical for the well-being of women over 50. Add the responsibility of providing sustained care for a grandchild, and these preventive examinations become even more important.

Yet, grandmothers in the first two years of caring for a grandchild take fewer preventive measures to protect their health compared to grandmothers the same age not raising children, according to a recent USC Davis School of Gerontology study.

According to the study, the number of custodial grandparents in the Unites States has nearly doubled since 1970, creating an emerging public health concern.

"Given that this group is already at risk for poor health outcomes because of their advanced age and vulnerability to chronic conditions, poor preventive behavior might precipitate a decline in health over time, a situation which could render the grandmother unable to care for her grandchild," explained lead author, Lindsey Baker, a postdoctoral fellow at the USC Davis School.

In a recent paper in the Journal of Gerontology, Baker and co-author Merril Silverstein, USC professor of gerontology and sociology, looked at five types of protective health behaviors: influenza vaccination, cholesterol screening, monthly breast self-examination, mammography and Papanicolaou tests, or Pap tests, used to identify risk factors for cervical cancer.

Their findings indicate that grandmothers in the early stages of caring for a grandchild were significantly less likely than grandmothers not raising grandchildren to undergo flu vaccination or cholesterol screening. They were also less likely to get Pap tests, the researchers found.

However, after two years of caring for a grandchild, what was once a health burden becomes a potential health benefit. Baker and Silverstein found that caregiving grandmothers were increasingly health consci
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Contact: Suzanne Wu
suzanne.wu@usc.edu
213-740-0252
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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