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Role of grandparenting in postmenopausal women’s cognitive health: results from the Women’s Healthy Aging Project

Burn, Katherine F. BSc(Hons)1; Henderson, Victor W. MD2; Ames, David MD3; Dennerstein, Lorraine PhD, MBBS3; Szoeke, Cassandra PhD, FRACP, MBBS, BSc(Hons)1

doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000236
Original Articles
Editorial

Objective Preserving aging cognition improves quality of life and delays dementia onset. Previous studies have shown that social engagement can maintain cognition; however, none has examined the effects of grandparenting, an important role among postmenopausal women. This study aims to examine the role of grandparenting in cognition among postmenopausal women.

Methods Participants were 186 Australian women from the longitudinal prospective Women’s Healthy Aging Project. Cognition was assessed using the Symbol-Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), California Verbal Learning Test, and Tower of London.

Results Amount of time spent minding grandchildren predicted differences in SDMT performance (P < 0.01). The highest cognitive scores for most tests were seen in participants who minded grandchildren for 1 day/week. Minding grandchildren for 1 day/week was also a significant positive predictor of California Verbal Learning Test immediate recall performance (P < 0.05). However, minding grandchildren for 5 days or more per week predicted lower SDMT performance (P < 0.05).

Conclusions The data suggest that the highest cognitive performance is demonstrated by postmenopausal women who spend 1 day/week minding grandchildren; however, minding grandchildren for 5 days or more per week predicts lower working memory performance and processing speed. These results indicate that highly frequent grandparenting predicts lower cognitive performance.

From the 1University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia; 2Stanford University, Stanford, CA; and 3National Aging Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.

Received November 28, 2013; revised and accepted February 13, 2014.

Funding/support: This study was partly supported by the Alzheimer’s Association, Collier Trust, Scobie and Claire McKinnon Foundation, J.O. and J.R. Wicking Trust, Shepherd Foundation, Brain Foundation, Mason Foundation, Ramaciotti Foundation, Alzheimer’s Australia, Royal Australian College of Physicians, and National Health and Medical Research Council.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: C.S. has provided clinical consultancy to and has served on the scientific advisory committees of the Australian CSIRO, Alzheimer’s Australia, and University of Melbourne. She has other relationships that are subject to confidentiality clauses. She has been a chief investigator for investigator-driven research projects in partnership with Pfizer, Merck, Piramal, Bayer, and GE. Her research program has received support from the National Health and Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Association, Collier Trust, Scobie and Claire McKinnon Foundation, J.O. and J.R. Wicking Trust, Shepherd Foundation, Brain Foundation, Mason Foundation, Ramaciotti Foundation, Alzheimer’s Australia, and Royal Australian College of Physicians. She may accrue revenues from patents on pharmacogenomics prediction of seizure recurrence. The other authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Address correspondence to: Cassandra Szoeke, PhD, FRACP, MBBS, Bsc(Hons), PO Box 2026, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria 3050, Australia. E-mail: cszoeke@unimelb.edu.au

© 2014 by The North American Menopause Society.