Do Parents Really Live Longer?
Apr 13 2017 Comments 0
Most parents have uttered those words “my kids have put ten years on me” more than once. And most of them believe it to be the absolute truth. But contrary to this popular notion, parenthood is actually linked to an increase in life expectancy, recent research has revealed.
Changing the risk of death
A scientist at Karolinska Institute in Sweden set out to answer the question of whether parents live longer, through a series of studies based in Sweden. Modig and her team used national registry data to trail almost 1.5 million Swedes born between 1911 and 1925 as they got older. What they discovered was that even though the risk of death increased with age for all adults, the risk remained lower among those who had had at least one child.
“The absolute difference in death risk between parents and non-parents increases with age between age 60 and 100," Modig explains. "These differences persist into, and even grow larger, in old age."
While it is not absolutely clear why having children is linked to a longer life, the researchers suggest it might be down to social involvement. Children assist ageing parents with physical and emotional support and care, which seems to be a very possible factor in longevity. Another explanation is that adults with children might have healthier lifestyles than those who are childless.
But while having children might help you love a little longer, Modig says it is far from the only factor influencing longevity. “In terms of all other causes that would affect your death risk in these old ages, having a child is not among the greatest ones,” she said. “But it is still a 1.5% difference [for 90-year-old men] which is still substantial.”
The study also found that the sex of the children did not affect life expectancy and that the difference in death risk was greater in unmarried parents, especially among men. According to Modig, a follow-up study is planned to scrutinise the effect of these aspects in more detail.
While there are some patterns in life expectancy, having children can’t compete with medical research for direct extension of life. But the medical world has issues of its own too. The use of animals in medical research is one issue which is most likely to cause heated debates. But is it actually the best option? The article ‘Human Models for Human Disease: The Animal Replacement Centre of Excellence’ looks at how replacing animals is needed to expand our understanding of human biology and increase the approval rate of effective drugs.
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