Good news! Parents live longer than non-parents – but there’s a catch

Ever feel like parenting will be the death of you? Hang tight, turns out that being a parent may help you live longer.

The stats are in

A new study by Swedish researchers has found that parents live slightly longer than those who are childless, suggesting that – ta-da! – parenthood could help delay death.

While the differences in longevity were slim, the nation-wide study did show that by the time a father reached the age of 60, he was expected to live an extra two years than childless men. As for mothers, the difference was an additional 1.5 years over non-mothers.

By the time parents reach the age of 80, dads can expect to live roughly 8 months longer and mothers 7 months longer than their childless contemporaries.

Drilling down

The nation-wide study used Swedish health data to track men and women who were born between 1911 and 1925. What they found was that parents live longer, even in very old age. What’s more, this additional longevity appears to occur regardless of the child’s gender.

This prompts the question – is it accumulative? If we have more children will we live longer? Unfortunately not. The study simply examined the association between having a child and the risk of death (not the potential life-giving forces of our prodigy). And it appears that the risk remains lower among those who have had at least one child.

Why? Exactly?

The researchers couldn’t say precisely why parenthood increases life expectancy. But they did have a crack at a few explanations:

  • Having adult children around to help as we age provides a crucial support network. Whereas those without children may have to look to other external networks to get the social support they need to age well.
  • It’s also possible that parents have slightly healthier behaviours (gained from years of self-sacrifice we wonder?)

The catch? We have to get old to enjoy the benefits

That kind of feels like the takeaway here. Especially if we’re still in those blurry early years with young children – 60 feels like a long time away. But these results do make a perfect kind of sense. When we put in these hard years and raise our children, aren’t we also quietly hoping that one day our children will acknowledge our efforts, and maybe even help us a little when we’re old and ailing? Won’t we be proud to see them continue on and have their own children? And in turn, have their own little tribe to support them when they age?

If anything, this research is a nice pat on the back to those of us sweating it out with young children. So if you’re feeling like you’re sprouting a few new wrinkles, take comfort in the knowledge that you are doing a brilliant, life-expanding job.

 

What do you think? Is life just getting better with kids? Let us know.

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