Parents Live Longer Than Childless People: Why Having Children Is Tied To Longevity

Parenting may be challenging, but it appears to offer a special benefit when you get older. Findings of a new study have shown that parents live longer than those who are childless.

Having Children And Longevity

The findings, which were published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health on March 13, were based on analysis of Swedish health data of more than 725,000 women and almost 705,000 men who were born between the years 1911 and 1925.

The study showed that at 60 years old, fathers are more likely to live 2 years longer than their counterparts without children. At this age, mothers can expect to live 1.5 years longer than childless women. At age 80, fathers can expect to live about 8 months longer and mothers about 7 months longer compared with non-parents.

The longevity benefit appears to occur regardless if a parent has a son or daughter. Although the researchers were not able to prove a causal link that shows having children boosts lifespan, they have several theories on why parents live longer than their childless peers.

Healthier Behaviors

Study researcher Karin Modig, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said it is possible that the survival benefit is due to parents having more healthy behaviors compared with childless people.

Parents raising children tend to prepare healthy and home-cooked meals for their kids and adapt healthier lifestyle. A 2015 study conducted by researchers in Australia found that people who live alone consume less vegetables and fruits and are more likely to have poor diet, opting to eat fast and ready-made meals.

Modig added that childlessness is possibly a sign of natural selection that shows people who do not have children have biological or social challenges that may have implications on their life expectancy.

Support System

The researcher said that a more feasible explanation for extended survival is that old parents have adult children that could take care of them and provide them with important support.

In the study, the link between parenthood and longer lifespan appeared stronger for unmarried men. Researchers said that without a partner, unmarried fathers may rely more heavily on their kids.

"Having children is associated with increased longevity, particularly in an absolute sense in old age. That the association increased with parents' age and was somewhat stronger for the non-married may suggest that social support is a possible explanation," the researchers wrote in their study.

Social Interaction

Aging parents are also likely to benefit from social interaction with their adult children and grandchildren.

Social involvement is crucial to healthy ageing. In a 2011 study, researchers found that elderly people who are socially active tend to be more motivated to look after their health compared with their less-engaged peers. They are also marked by slower health declines than those who become socially engaged overtime.

A 2016 study that also compared the effect of family bond with those of friends revealed that being surrounded by more family members and having close relationship with them were found to be associated with longer life expectancy in older adults.

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