Having a child dramatically cuts the risk of early death in men and women, a Danish study shows.
Researchers found the early death rate from circulatory disease, cancers, and accidents among childless women was four times as high as among those who gave birth to their own child, and 50% lower among women who adopted.
Similarly, rates of death were around twice as high among men who did not become parents, either biologically or through adoption.
It is not the first time that childlessness has been linked with higher than expected death rates but previous studies have failed to differentiate between those who are childless by choice and those infertile couples who are not.
Researchers obtained data from various population registers in Denmark on births and deaths, assisted conception (IVF) procedures, hospital admissions, psychiatric service contacts between 1994 and 2008.
During this period, 21,276 childless couples were registered for IVF treatment, of which 15,210 children were born and 1564 were adopted.
Rates of mental ill health were found to be “similar” between couples with and without children of their own - with the exception of those with drug and alcohol problems.
However, the prevalence of mental illness in couples who adopted kids was around half that of other parents.
“Mindful that association is not [the same thing as] causation, our results suggest that the mortality rates are higher in the childless,” said the researchers.
“Rates of psychiatric illness do not appear to vary with childlessness, but the rate of psychiatric illness in parents who adopt is decreased.”
It is claimed other influential factors: such as age, educational attainment, income and underlying illness had only a “marginal impact” on the findings.