Saturday, December 8, 2012
Despite the popular belief among parents that having children shortens their lives, the reverse seems to be true, particularly for women, indicates a large study of childless couples, treated for infertility
The prevalence of mental illness was also halved in couples who became adoptive parents, the study shows. This is not the first time that childlessness has been linked with higher than expected death rates, say the authors. But the link has traditionally been attributed to unhealthy behaviors and poor mental and physical health, and few studies have differentiated between voluntary and involuntary childlessness. Having a child cut the risk of early death, particularly among women, the analysis showed. The early death rate from circulatory disease, cancers, and accidents among childless women was four times as high as that among those who gave birth to their own child, and 50% lower among women who adopted. Similarly, rates of death were around twice as high among men who did not become parents, either biologically or through adoption. Rates of mental illness were similar between couples with and without children of their own, with the exception of those with drug and alcohol problems. But the prevalence of mental illness in couples who adopted kids was around half that of other parents. Taking account of influential factors, such as age, educational attainment, income and underlying illness had only a marginal impact on the findings. "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. "Rates of psychiatric illness do not appear to vary with childlessness, but the rate of psychiatric illness in parents who adopt is decreased," they add.