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Can having children help you live longer? According to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, couples without children may be two to four times more likely to die than couples with children–and that may be just the tip of the iceberg.
The study also found childless couples were more likely to suffer from mental illness and substance abuse than their child-rearing peers, even when environmental factors, such as age, education levels and income, were taken into consideration.
The study was conducted between 1994-2005 and looked at 21,000 Danish couples who were seeking infertility treatments (such as IVF). Over those years, a total of 15,000 children were born to these couples and an additional 1,200 children were adopted.
“Women who remained childless were four
times as likely to die during the nine-year period.”
After the study concluded, researchers found women who didn’t have children were four times more likely to have died during that period than women who did have children, and childless men were twice as likely to have died than the study’s eventual fathers.
Cause of death was often linked to circulatory conditions, cancers, miscellaneous diseases and accidents, though the study’s authors also note (after reviewing previous related studies) that couples without children are more likely to engage in dangerous or otherwise unhealthy behaviors than parents, which may contribute to their significantly higher mortality rates.
This study also found infertile couples who chose to adopt experienced the same positive health benefits as couples who biologically conceived children through their treatments, including reduced mortality rates and reduced rates of mental illness.