Death Rate Higher for Those Without Kids
Researchers in Denmark found that parents, particularly women, live longer — and that even those who adopt get some of the apparent health benefits.
By Erin Hicks
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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 5, 2012 —Here’s one compelling reason to have kids: It could make you live longer. Research published online in theJournal of Epidemiology and Community Healthfound that parents — and particularly women — lived longer than those without kids.
Researchers based their findings on Danish birth and mortality data pulled from population registers, records of assisted conception procedures, hospital admissions, psychiatric service contacts, and labor market statistics.
Scientists looked at 21,276 couples and found that .25 percent of the women with biological children died between 1994 and 2005 — compared to 1 percent of childless women. The death rate difference persisted even when researchers controlled for the age of the women and other factors known to affect mortality.
The study also found that women who adopted faced a lower risk of death than childless women — although not as low as biological mothers. About 0.67 percent of adoptive mothers died over the period of the study, so they were about half as likely to die as childless women.
Rates of death were around 50 percent higher per year for men who didn’t become parents. Researchers found it didn't matter if the men who had children had them biologically or through adoption.
In the past, the researchers noted, higher death rates among the childless were seen as stemming from unrelated health problems or socio-economic factors that might have kept them from seeking or receiving needed health care. “It has been hypothesized that the excess mortality in the nulliparous (women that have not borne offspring), and those with only one child, originate from selection effects in the form of poor health, unhealthy behavior, and lower levels of social support and relationships,” the researchers wrote.
The current study concluded that wasn't the case — but wasn't able to suggest why parenthood leads to longer life.
“Mindful that association is not [the same thing as] causation, our results suggest that the mortality rates are higher in the childless,” write the authors.
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