(Natural News) Some parents joke that their children are taking years off their lives. No matter how much we love our kids, there is no denying that the stress, lost sleep, and countless hours spent worrying about their well-being can sometimes make it feel like they are taking their toll on our health. While all of this is just a small price to pay for the joy of having kids, it turns out there could be another reward for child-rearing: a longer life.
A study that was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that parents have a longer life expectancy than those without children, especially in older age. This difference is even more pronounced in men than it is in women. After tracking the lifespans of more than 1.4 million Swedish people born between the years of 1911 and 1925, the researchers found that men and women who had at least one child had a lower risk of death than their childless peers.
At age 60, that difference was 1.5 years for women and 2 years for men. This conclusion was reached after accounting for other influential factors, such as deprivation and education.
It is important to note, however, that the study only found a correlation between having children and living longer. This study does not conclusively state that having kids was the reason for the longer life expectancy, but it does make sense. The researchers theorize that parents often benefit from the social and even financial support of their children when they get older, which is something that childless individuals often miss out on.
When people get older, having a loving support system becomes vital. After all, even a simple fall can prove fatal in your twilight years. Children tend to encourage their elderly parents to see a doctor, take care of themselves, and stay active. The researchers also believe that people without children might have an unhealthier lifestyle than those who do have children.
This association was uncovered in married and unmarried people alike, although it was the strongest in older men who were single. The scientists think this might be because unmarried men often rely more on their children because they do not have a partner. Past studies have found that when it comes to survival, men tend to benefit more from being married than women do.
It is also important to note that the researchers found that the gender of the child did not have an impact on the parent’s longevity, but their findings were based on families with just one child. It is possible that being an only child could inspire a greater sense of responsibility toward one’s parents regardless of gender. It would be interesting to see if the effect on longevity was less pronounced in parents who have more than one child than those with just one offspring.
Past studies have discovered that losing one’s partner in old age can shorten your lifespan. In addition, a feeling of loneliness has been linked to a higher risk of dementia in older people.
An extra year and a half of life is nothing to sneeze at, but when it comes to factors that affect your death risk, having children is not one of the biggest ones. Being a smoker, for example, can knock about 10 years off your life expectancy, while a report from the Brookings Institute revealed that those born in 1950 in the top 10 percent income-earning bracket lived 14 years longer on average than those earners in the bottom 10 percent. Other big factors that affect your life expectancy include diet, activity levels, and education.