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There is long held believe that people with kids tend to live longer than those without. A new study published in the journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, tried to pick apart how that works.
The researchers looked at 1.5 million Swedes born between 1911 and 1925 and followed them as they aged. Not surprisingly, they found the risk of dying increases with age for all adults, but that having children was linked to living longer.
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By the age of 60, men with kids had two years more on their remaining life expectancy compared to those without; 60-year-old women with kids could look forward to 1.5 more years on earth than those without.
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The researchers found that the benefits of having children became more pronounced with age, when they controlled for education and marital status (both of which affect your risk of dying). The effect was greater for men than women, and nearly twice as great for unmarried men than those who had partners.
While the link between having kids and living longer is not causal (it’s an association), it still begs the question of why.
The research also showed the strongest link between longevity and having children in unmarried men. Those men presumably rely more on their children in the absence of a caring spouse. That aligns with past research showing a positive link between marriage and men’s mortality.
They noted other possible explanations—for instance, that people with kids tend to lead healthier lives. But the most likely, they said, had to do with the benefits of support. As parents age and their health deteriorates, kids can offer emotional physical support, and advocacy to ensure parents get the care they need.
“The strengthening of the association with age strengthens the support hypothesis, but it does not close the case,” said Karin Modig, a co-author from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.
There’s good news for parents of sons. Unlike previous research showing parents with daughters fared better than those with sons, this paper found that kids’ gender was irrelevant.