Providing high levels of caregiving to grandchildren (and possibly children) puts women at increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), according to a new study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. The article, "Relation of Caregiving to Children and Grandchildren With Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women," appears in the November 2003 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Researchers looked at 54,412 women ages 46-71 who participated in the Nurses' Health Study, a longitudinal investigation of female registered nurses in the United States. Those who cared for non-ill children more than 21 hours a week or non-ill grandchildren more than nine hours a week had higher risks of heart disease. "It is possible that women (especially grandmothers) with high levels of childcare demands have less opportunity to engage in their own self-care and preventive health behaviors," the authors wrote. "Role conflict may also be a stressor among working mothers and grandmothers."
Lee and colleagues noted that most previous studies of child-rearing stress have focused on children or spouses who were ill or disabled and found links to increased risk of depression, insomnia, diabetes, functional health limitations and declines in self-rated health. …