The sleepless nights and constant worry that youngsters can bring may be rewarded with a longer life, as adult children support their parents socially and emotionally, a new study suggests.
Health experts from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute tracked more than 1.4 million Swedes born between 1911 and 1925 and found that those who had at least one child tended to live longer than those who were childless.
“At 60 years of age, the difference in life expectancy was two years for men and 1.5 years for women,” the research says.
At the age of 60, men and women who had children were expected to live for another 20.2 and 24.6 years respectively, while for those who were childless the figures were 18.4 for men and 23.1 for women.
Parents aged 80 were expected to live 7.7 years (for men) and 9.5 years (for women), compared to 7 and 8.9 years for men and women who had no children.
"There are several other studies on the subject and a large consensus that parents live longer than those who do not have kids, but not so many that follow parents through the years, nor look at how the effects of having kids impacts mortality at different ages," KI assistant professor of epidemiology Karin Modig told the Local.
However, the study did not take into account other factors.
"We still don't know exactly what mechanisms the link works through.
The childless group is a heterogeneous group which consists of both highly educated, generally healthy individuals, and individuals with poorer health.
There are so many different reasons for not having children," Modig said.
Scientists suggested that the reason for a longer lifespan might be the result of informational, emotional and social support provided by adult children.
“Support from adult children to aging parents may be of importance for parental health and longevity,” the study says.
“At old age, the stress of parenthood is likely to be lower and instead, parents can benefit from social support from their children.”
There may be biological reasons for parents having a longer life, but, as researchers explained, this is an observational study, so there’s no definite conclusion to be drawn.