If You Want to Live Longer, Become a Parent

Among the top reasons for having kids, besides maintaining your family line and passing on your legacy, is to have someone to take care of you in old age. According to research, that is a very solid plan: people who have children live longer than people who don't, and those benefits are even greater the older you get.

Payback Time

In 2017, Karin Modig of Sweden's Karolinska Institute and her colleagues published a study in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health that looked at how having kids affected how long people live. As the Guardian reports, "While previous research has shown that adults with children live longer than those without, the new study [unpacks] how the effect plays out in older age." The study used data from Sweden's national registry to follow nearly 1.5 million men and women born between 1911 and 1925 from their 60th birthday until either their death, their emigration, or the end of the study in 2014, whichever came first.

Here's what they found: at age 60, fathers had almost two years greater life expectancy than men without children, and mothers had a little over a year greater life expectancy than childless women. Once those people reached age 80, the differences were closer to a year for men and six months for women. But when it came to the overall risk of dying within a year, the differences were more pronounced the older the study subjects got. When adjusted for educational level and marital status, the difference in death risk between men with and without children went from 0.06 percent at age 60 to 1.47 percent at age 90.

Delving Deeper

The study also found that the benefits of having kids were even greater for unmarried men than for married men. According to the study, this may be because "marriage has sometimes been shown to be more beneficial to men's survival than to women's survival" — that is, marriage already helps men live longer, so any leg up unmarried men can get will have more of an impact. So if the parenting happiness gap has got you down, take comfort in the fact that you've got security in old age that the childless likely don't.

Written by Ashley Hamer March 31, 2017

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