"Agerbo was able to make use of Denmark's detailed and complete system of medical records. They looked at data on 21,276 childless couples who registered for in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment between 1994 and 2005. The first three cycles of IVF were free until 2010 in Denmark's national health system.
During this time, 15,210 children were born and 1,564 were adopted, Agerbo reports in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. And over the same time, 96 of the women and 200 of the men died. Four times as many women who did not have children died as women who had or adopted a child, Agerbo's team found. Death rates were twice as high among the men who did not have children.
"Mindful that association is not causation, our results suggest that the mortality rates are higher in the childless," the researchers wrote.
What could the reason be?
"Parents are less likely to die from accidents, circulatory diseases, cancer, and external causes -- thus I suggest a behavioral difference," Agerbo says. "Our study was not large enough to say whether suicide was less common among parents, but the rate of accidents is higher among non-parents -- perhaps I am more prone to buy a big motorcycle or a fast car than family-friendly slow van."
Alice Domar, a psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and director of mind-body services at Boston IVF, agrees. "When you have kids, it completely changes the way you live your life. I suspect that is what going on," she said."
Image: Parents and child, via Shutterstock