The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 01-04-2010, 02:43 PM
blood63 blood63 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Do people without children live longer?

Help solve this disagreement between my girlfriend and I. Do people with children die sooner? I heard this on a radio program. The idea is that the stress of raising childrens takes years off your life.
My girlfriend has heard otherwise. Apparently the loving attention of the family actually makes you live longer.
Does anyone know the statistics on this one?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 01-04-2010, 03:02 PM
pan1 pan1 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Children do not have a direct effect on life expectancy. But they can have corrolary effects if they bring you happiness, company or stress.

They have a direct effect on the life expectancy of women - women who die in childbirth bring the life expectancy of the gender as a whole down.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 01-04-2010, 03:05 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by pan1 View Post
Children do not have a direct effect on life expectancy. But they can have corrolary effects if they bring you happiness, company or stress.

They have a direct effect on the life expectancy of women - women who die in childbirth bring the life expectancy of the gender as a whole down.
Is death in childbirth a significant factor in the first world these days? I know it used to be, before the advent of modern medicine.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 01-04-2010, 03:10 PM
melodyharmonius melodyharmonius is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by pan1 View Post
Children do not have a direct effect on life expectancy. But they can have corrolary effects if they bring you happiness, company or stress.

They have a direct effect on the life expectancy of women - women who die in childbirth bring the life expectancy of the gender as a whole down.
Pets supposedly increase your life span. Do you consider children pets? :P

Here's a cite for 22 Ways to Predict Your Life Span.

Interesting thing to note - anything that could increase your life span only does so if you enjoy it. If your SO is trying to encourage you to have kids so that you will increase your life, and you don't want kids, it's kinda counter-intuitive.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 01-04-2010, 03:16 PM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
I've read that women who have had children ( especially boys ) are more prone to autoimmune diseases later in life; presumably that lowers their average lifespan somewhat.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 01-04-2010, 03:21 PM
Mr. Excellent Mr. Excellent is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
It just feels longer.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 01-04-2010, 03:51 PM
astorian astorian is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Der Trihs View Post
I've read that women who have had children ( especially boys ) are more prone to autoimmune diseases later in life; presumably that lowers their average lifespan somewhat.
On the other hand, women who've given birth have lower rates of breast cancer than those who haven't.

In any case, cause and effect are always tough to establish, even when stats show a relationship between two phenomena.

For example, some stats show that married men live longer than single men. But does that mean men are healthier as a result of marriage? Or that women are more likely to marry healthy-looking men than sickly-looking ones?
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 01-04-2010, 04:05 PM
pan1 pan1 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Malthus View Post
Is death in childbirth a significant factor in the first world these days? I know it used to be, before the advent of modern medicine.
Maybe if you consider 9-900(depending on location)/100,000 to be a significant factor. I just said it was a factor, no judgement on significance. If I'd said children have no effect - someone would have mentioned complications from childbirth as a reason to call me wrong.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 01-04-2010, 05:41 PM
UncleFred UncleFred is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Not very authoritative but...

I recall hearing a statistic once that married men (married to women, that is) lived X years longer than men who never married. Since more married men have children than do unmarried men, there may be a statistical correlation that men with children live longer than men without children. I am not claiming cause and effect, just a numerical relationship.

Last edited by UncleFred; 01-04-2010 at 05:42 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 01-04-2010, 05:58 PM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
It's well known that inanity is hereditary -- you get it from your kids.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 01-05-2010, 05:52 PM
Shot From Guns Shot From Guns is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by astorian View Post
On the other hand, women who've given birth have lower rates of breast cancer than those who haven't.

In any case, cause and effect are always tough to establish, even when stats show a relationship between two phenomena.
In the case of the example you gave, IIRC, it's because of the changes that full-term pregnancies cause in the breasts. Something about a more-cancer-prone type of cell converting to a less-cancer-prone type as the breast prepares for lactation.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 01-05-2010, 07:50 PM
Darryl Lict Darryl Lict is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrotherCadfael View Post
It's well known that inanity is hereditary -- you get it from your kids.
I'm completely inane! My parents? Not much!

OTOH, my whole family is insane. Fortunately, I have no kids.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 01-05-2010, 09:01 PM
Hazle Weatherfield Hazle Weatherfield is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
I agree that whatever causes stress can shorten your life. I am childless, but would give anything to have a baby. Not likely; 42, divorce looming. This will be a constant stress/sadness (if only, eventually, in the background) for the rest of my life if I am not able to have a child. Major suckage!
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 01-05-2010, 09:09 PM
TheFatKid TheFatKid is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Childless Women Risk Poorer Health In Later Life

Quote:
Childless women run the risk of earlier death and poorer health in later life. A new study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) finds that not only childless women but also mothers of five or more children, teenage mothers and mothers who have children with less than an 18 month gap between births all have higher risks of death and poor health later in life.
So it looks like the key to longer life, for women anyway, is to have between 1 and 4 kids in their 20s or later at least a year and a half apart.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 01-05-2010, 09:56 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Lethbridge, AB.
Posts: 48,271
But on the other hand, childless men have lower risk of prostate cancer (unless they have a lot of kids).
Quote:
They found men without children were 16 percent less likely than those with children to be diagnosed with prostate cancer during up to 35-years of follow up. The analysis also revealed that among fathers, there was a gradually reduced prostate cancer risk with increasing number of children.
__________________
"Your guilty consciences may make you vote Democratic, but secretly you all yearn for a Republican president to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king!"
- S. Bob

Last edited by Cat Whisperer; 01-05-2010 at 09:57 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 01-05-2010, 10:06 PM
salinqmind salinqmind is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
When a woman learns she's pregnant, she (hopefully) realizes that starting this very moment, The Party's Over. She (hopefully) stops boozing, drugging, and smoking now that she is going to be responsible for a child. She may pay more attention to her health. She may marry a good provider and the quality of their lives improves - more sleep, healthier food, becoming a more vigilant driver - all these improvements in her life might enable her to live longer than a single woman. I know I've painted with a broad brush here and there are exceptions on either side.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 01-06-2010, 01:49 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Lethbridge, AB.
Posts: 48,271
It is hard to tell cause from effect in these studies - as one noted, women who have children after 40 tend to live longer. They also noted that a woman who feels capable of raising a child after 40 is probably pretty damned healthy to start with.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 01-06-2010, 02:25 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Chicago,IL
Posts: 14,962
The problem with studies is that everything else must be near equal. And this is very tough to achieve, without skewing the results.

You need to find a set of women with the near same upbringing and health and social and economic exprerience, just up until the time of the study.

Then you need to follow them over a period of years and all these factors that make them similar must be the same or nearly identical

I worked with analyzing data for a university and I don't trust a lot of this. The univeristies are loathe to throw out useless data after spending so much time. If you work and produce data and don't produce a usable result, you get no funding for the next study.

So if you can't see the statistical set their working with, you need to take these studies with a grain of salt.

I found there's too much of: "This is the result I want, and we'll find people that'll fit that set."

I'm not saying it's dishonest, but if you start with unequal data, you don't get a good result. You get something better than a guess or an average estimate but not a whole lot better.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 01-06-2010, 03:18 PM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is offline
Out of the slimy mud of words
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Between pole and tropic
Posts: 7,065
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cat Whisperer View Post
But on the other hand, childless men have lower risk of prostate cancer (unless they have a lot of kids).
Thanks for providing evidence here. It's ideal when GQ questions are answered with more than opinion (but I understand it's not always, or even often, possible).

OK, my turn.

In Norway, at least, childlessness is associated with the highest mortality. Having only one child was associated with the next highest mortality. Here is the article (free full text).

And, here is some of the abstract from that study:
Quote:
Originally Posted by American Journal of Epidemiology 2008 167(3):271-279
. . . The authors used register data to derive fertility histories for all Norwegian men and women born in 19351958. Discrete-time hazard modeling was used to analyze later-life mortality . . . A total of 63,312 deaths were observed during 14.5 million person-years of follow-up in 19802003, when subjects were aged 4568 years. Models included detailed information on educational qualifications and marital status. Odds of death relative to those for subjects with two children were highest for the childless (women: odds ratio (OR) = 1.50, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.43, 1.57; men: OR = 1.35, 95% CI: 1.30, 1.40) and next highest for those with only one child (women: OR = 1.31, 95% CI: 1.26, 1.37; men: OR = 1.20, 95% CI: 1.16, 1.24) . . . The similarity of results for women and men suggests biosocial pathways underlying associations between reproductive history and health. The lack of any high-parity disadvantage suggests that in the "family friendly" Norwegian environment, the health benefits of having several children may outweigh the costs.
(emphasis added)
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 01-06-2010, 03:37 PM
Smeghead Smeghead is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
If you're a female fruit fly, having kids reduces your life span significantly. There's a lot of nasty stuff in fruit fly jizz, including mind-controlling proteins. Virgins live much longer than mated females.

For what it's worth.




The more you know...
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 01-08-2010, 01:42 PM
kimera kimera is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
It depends on the country you live in, whether you have more sons or daughters (sons drain more from the mother), and how early you start having children.

Cite:
Quote:
RESULTS: Women with a history of six or more completed pregnancies were found to be disadvantaged in educational attainment, financial resources, and health status compared with women with no or fewer pregnancies. When current sociodemographic factors were controlled, six or more pregnancies were associated with worse general health and worse physical role functioning. When sociodemographic factors and number of births were controlled, among women with at least one delivery, women who had experienced an infant's death reported worse health as measured by all three indices. Women with a first delivery before the age of 18 were more likely to report a functional limitation. CONCLUSIONS: Women with high parity status, a history of an infant's death, and an early first pregnancy may be at greater risk of poor health in later life.
cite
Quote:
MAIN RESULTS--Nulliparous women had higher mortality than parous women in all age groups. Parity showed a weak association with increasing mortality among high parous women. Lowest mortality was found for parous women with 2-4 children and a late first and last birth, adjusted for socioeconomic group by level of women's education. CONCLUSION--The findings indicate that postponed childbearing may benefit the health of women.
cite

Quote:
Late Children Enhance Female Longevity
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 01-08-2010, 01:53 PM
Shot From Guns Shot From Guns is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by kimera View Post
whether you have more sons or daughters (sons drain more from the mother)
I wonder if there's any difference between matrilocal or patrilocal societies that way.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 01-08-2010, 02:03 PM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is offline
Out of the slimy mud of words
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Between pole and tropic
Posts: 7,065
The problem with the studies you cite, kimera, is that they deal exclusively with women. In other words, the significant and well-recognized long-term effect of pregnancies (or not) complicates such studies interpretation, and probably also their validity with respect to men. And, even though those studies made attempts to control for socio-economic status and education (hugely important influences on mortality), such correction is seldom adequate.

OTOH, the study I cited above deals with both men and women. Likewise, it deals with all Norwegians and thereby will have better internal control of socio-economic variables. If you have the inclincation, read the introduction to that study for a nice overview of the problem.

Last edited by KarlGauss; 01-08-2010 at 02:03 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 01-08-2010, 02:12 PM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is offline
Out of the slimy mud of words
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Between pole and tropic
Posts: 7,065
kimera; I realize I may sound pompous telling you "to read" something. That's not the case at all. I am simply trying to dissociate gravid status from consideration of the "pure" question of whether people without children live longer. Sorry if I seemed rude.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 01-08-2010, 02:45 PM
Harriet the Spry Harriet the Spry is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Controlling for SES and education is of course important, but I haven't seen anything controlling for the health of the mother/ parents. Poor health is associated with lower fertility, and people who know they carry genes for hereditary conditions may choose not to have kids.

While the original question was just "who lives longer," it's important to recognize the lack of evidence (so far in this thread, anyway) that a given individual will live longer for having had children. If someone's infertility is due to Type 1 diabetes starting in childhood, their longevity probably already took a big hit. If someone knows ALS runs in their family, it may take them at an early age whether or not they have a child.

This article discusses the lack of evidence that having children makes people happier: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/l...cle6111954.ece
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:52 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.