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Couples with children live longer, study finds

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 11 2012 9:40 a.m. MST

Having children is good for your health, the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reports.

After examining data on more than 21,276 Danish couples seeking in vitro fertilization treatment, researchers found that women who were unsuccessful in having a child were four times more likely to die prematurely than women who had children. Men who became parents were twice as likely to be alive, compared to their childless counterparts. Nearly 320 people in total died over the 11-year study.

Previous studies have linked parenthood to mortality, finding that couples with kids are at the lowest risk of premature death, the Los Angeles Times reported. "But none of this data prove that raising kids is responsible for a longer life," the article noted.

In other studies, it was possible that childless couples were fundamentally different from parents, accounting for other factors that influenced their health, but these findings offer a better look at the link between parenthood and health because all the parents in the study wanted children, Los Angeles Times noted: "That's why they tried fertility treatments."

The study couldn't have weeded out all additional factors, The Atlantic pointed out. Researchers examined people with fertility problems, and thus may have failed to account for factors such as lack of social support or unhealthy behaviors that may have affected death rates.

"That adoptive parents had higher survival rates, for example, may be due to the fact that they had to pass evaluations of their health and socioeconomic status before they were allowed to adopt," The Atlantic reported.

"This is a very specific situation of people who are trying to have children — the study's findings cannot be used to generalize across the whole general population," Ingrid Collins, a consultant psychologist, told the BBC.

People who are trying to get pregnant may be at higher risk of mental illness, as they are depressed because of their failed attempts to have a child, Collins speculated.

"It is complicated and many factors play a part in death rates: people with deep spiritual belief, being married, having a higher social class — these can all help in living longer," Collins said.

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rachel.lowry@gmail.com or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.

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