Posted on Mar 16, 2017, 6 a.m.
Parents live longer than those who do not have children, quite likely due to the fact that parenthood appears to offer a special benefit in later years.
Raising a child might cost upwards of a quarter-million dollars yet it pays off quite nicely in terms of parents' longevity. A recent study has determined that parents live longer than their childless peers. These findings were published in the March edition of the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
The study was based on an in-depth analysis of nearly 705,000 Swedish men and more than 725,000 Swedish women born between 1911 and 1925. The study found that once fathers reach 60 years of age, they stand a better chance of living two years longer than men of the same age who have not reared children. Once mothers reach age 60, they lived about 1.5 years longer than women who did not reproduce. When fathers reach age 80, they lived about eight months longer than men of the same age who did not rear children. Mothers who reached the age of 80 lived about seven months more than octogenarian women who did not have kids. This longevity benefit occurs regardless of whether the individual in question has a daughter or son.
Why Does the Longevity Benefit Exist?
Some believe that children motivate parents to live healthier lives. Those who are childless do not have to act as a role model of sorts for offspring. As a result, childless individuals are more inclined to develop bad habits that lead to a shorter life. Consider the fact that parents typically embrace the opportunity to prepare healthy home-cooked meals for their children. Parents also consume these healthy meals while their childless counterparts are more inclined to eat fast food, pre-made dishes or other unhealthy meals.
Consider the 2015 study performed by Australian researchers that found those who live alone consume fewer fruits and vegetables and are more likely to consume less nutritious foods. It is clear that having kids inspires parents to engage in healthy activities as they attempt to help their offspring sidestep bad habits.
Social and Biological Challenges Impact Reproduction and Lifespan
It is also worth noting that those who do not reproduce often have certain social or biological hurdles that play a role in life expectancy. As an example, someone who is saddled by chronic illness is less inclined to reproduce. Such an individual is also more likely to live a short life compared to a healthy person.
Adult Children are Inclined to Take Care of Their Parents
One of the best explanations for the longevity benefit is that adult children are willing to lend spiritual, physical and financial support to their aging parents. This is especially true for fathers. Studies have shown that fathers without a partner are strongly inclined to rely on their adult children for assistance. The reliance on adult children for care increases as parents age as their social support system wanes due to friends' deaths, decreased physical mobility and other factors.
The Socialization Factor
Parents reap significant benefits from socializing with their adult children as well as their grandchildren. Remaining social is critically important to ageing in a healthy manner. Studies have found that seniors who remain socially active are more inclined to mind their health compared to their comparably anti-social peers.
Social seniors endure slow health declines compared to those who lack social support. A 2016 study found that older individuals who have family bonds typically had a longer life expectancy. Longevity expanded in accordance with the number of close relationships with family members. Maintaining strong bonds with family members motivates seniors to engage in healthy activities, remain positive and do everything they can to continue living as long as possible.
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Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. Payback time? Influence of having children on mortality in old age, K Modig1, M Talbäck1, J Torssander2, A Ahlbom1