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?

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.

Pets supposedly increase your life span. Do you consider children pets? :stuck_out_tongue:

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.

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.

It just feels longer. :smiley:

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?

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.

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.

It’s well known that inanity is hereditary – you get it from your kids.

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.

I’m completely inane! My parents? Not much!

OTOH, my whole family is insane. Fortunately, I have no kids.

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!

Childless Women Risk Poorer Health In Later 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.

But on the other hand, childless men have lower risk of prostate cancer (unless they have a lot of kids).

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.

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.

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.

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:

(emphasis added)

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…