People who have kids will be the first to say that it can be incredibly stressful sometimes, but a new study suggests that being a parent may actually lengthen a person’s life.
Researchers in Sweden found that parenthood appears to help stave off death as a person grows older. However, the differences were not that big, CBS News reports. For example, fathers were expected to live two years longer than their childless counterparts upon reaching age 60, while mothers were expected to live 1.5 years longer than non-mothers, the study says.
By the age of 80, fathers were expected to live 8 months longer and mothers 7 months more, the study’s results state.
Karin Modig, assistant professor of epidemiology with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and lead author on the study, said,
Parents live longer than non-parents, even in the oldest ages.
The findings found that this benefit happens whether or not the parents have a son or a daughter, the researchers said.
Modig and her team used national Swedish health information to monitor all men and women born from 1911 to 1925. It included close to 705,000 men and over 725,000 women.
The research team compared life expectancy rates with marital status and parenthood, to check on whether or not being a parent had any influence on longevity.
Modig said, “The absolute difference in death risk between parents and non-parents increases with age between age 60 and 100. These differences persist into, and even grow larger, in old age.”
They could not pinpoint why exactly having kids increases a person’s lifespan. Modig said it could be possible that parents have healthier behaviors and lifestyles. It could also be that parents have adult children to help care for them when they get older.
“Children probably provide important support to their aging parents,” Modig stated. “Aging individuals without children or other close kin maybe need to get extra support elsewhere.”
The association between parenthood and lifespan was found to be true for both married and unmarried, but appeared to be stronger for unmarried men. The study authors say this could be because unmarried fathers rely heavily on their children in the absence of a partner.
The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.