Research: Parenthood prolongs life at all stages
At every stage of life, being a parent prolongs life.
I am truly blessed to have six beautiful children ranging from 24 to 46. Scattered throughout the United States, all are grown, have finished college and are pursuing lives and careers on their own.
Like so many parents, I know they are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I am not surprised that new research shows that having children promotes a longer and healthier life.
In a study conducted in Denmark and published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 21,000 couples that registered for in vitro fertilization treatment were followed from 1994 to 2005.
By 2008, 15,000 children had been born and 1,564 more were adopted.
Although deaths during this time were rare (98 women and 220 men), childbearing women were four times less likely to die than those who were childless. Men with children had a two-fold less chance of dying, whether their children were biological or adopted. But adopted children did not prolong life among the women.
This is one of many studies that have shown that children promote a longer life.
Some have suggested that the longer life expectancy of parents is related to greater responsibility and healthier lifestyles. But more plausible to me is the powerful role that love and nurturing play in longevity. From what I have seen of men and women, I believe that having children is more beneficial for women because nurturing and developing the child become central in more women's lives. Being a nurturer promotes powerful biologic changes that without question lead to a better and a longer life.
The benefits of having children become most important when a parent reaches 80 and beyond. Here the closer a parent lives to the children, the longer the life expectancy and the greater the chance the parent will remain independent.
But life expectancy remains 30 percent greater for a parent who has a child living more than 1,000 miles away compared to someone who is childless.
More than 50 percent of 85-year-olds are unable to live alone and thus become dependent on others for most of their needs. The cause is either memory loss or physical disability. Commonly, the burden of providing care falls on a spouse, but after a parent has died, a child — most frequently a daughter — becomes the caregiver of the surviving parent.
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