A new study conducted by researchers in Germany and Canada suggests that having a baby is much more disruptive to the well-being of a person's mental health compared to going through a divorce or even experiencing the death of a partner.
In a study featured in the journal Demography, director Mikko Myrskylä of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research and sociology researcher Rachel Margolis of the University of Western Ontario conducted a survey of 2,016 German couples who have entered parenthood for the first time.
The participants were asked to provide ratings for the level of happiness at different stages of their parenthood from zero to 10, with the number 10 representing a sense of complete satisfaction.
The researchers discovered that couples had a higher happiness rating two years before having children. This is believed to be caused by a sense of elation after finding out about the pregnancy or the anticipation of having a child.
A year after having a baby, however, the levels of happiness among the parents were shown to have dropped significantly.
Based on the findings, only around 30 percent of participants retained the same happiness even after having a child. The remaining German parents registered an average drop of 1.4 units in their happiness levels, which is viewed as a severe decrease.
By comparison, the levels of happiness of individuals have been found to drop by as much as one unit after the death of their partner.
"Although this measure does not capture respondents' overall experience of having a child, it is preferable to direct questions about childbearing because it is considered taboo for new parents to say negative things about a new child," Myrskylä and Margolis wrote in their study.
The researchers also noted that couples who experience a larger drop in their happiness levels after parenthood were shown to be less likely to bear more children. This finding was mostly seen among study participants who were 30 years old and above and with a higher educational attainment than others.
"Fertility is a choice for most people in the developed world ... [I]f the transition to parenthood is very difficult or more difficult than expected, then people may choose to remain at parity," Myrskylä and Margolis added.