People With Kids Live Longer — But Only if You Have This Many, Study Says

If you have this many kids, you could add years to your life.

By: Amanda Mushro
Sunset time,Mother and daughter with Cosmos flowers,Girl of 7 years old,Japanese family,Japan

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Sunset time,Mother and daughter with Cosmos flowers,Girl of 7 years old,Japanese family,Japan

Photo by: Yagi Studio

Yagi Studio

Whether you are dealing with sleepless nights with a newborn, calming tantrums with a toddler, navigating the playground with your big kid, or managing life with a teen, the stress of parenting can feel exhausting and overwhelming. However, the ups and downs of being a mom or dad could be adding years to your life, one study says. Before you start cheering, there is one caveat. The extra years of life are only expected if you have a certain amount of kids.

According to a study out of the University of Michigan, having kids can extend your lifespan, but their research shows that there is a perfect number of children to tack on a few more birthdays to your life. Turns out, the magic number is two kids. The average lifespan of a human is 71, but parents of two kids can expect a few more years with their average lifespan being 76.

"One thing that is relatively clear is that having children is more beneficial to longevity than not having children at all," says Jianzhi Zhang, an author in the study.

For the study, researchers reviewed the health and genetic information of 276,000 individuals living in the United Kingdom. What they found was a trend that men and women with a small number of kids have a higher probability of living long enough to see their children reach adulthood, with the highest numbers being parents of two kids.

But what if you have more or less than two kids?

"Having two kids corresponds to the longest lifespan," said Zhang. "Having fewer or more kids both lower the lifespan."

Zhang added, people who become parents have a 5% to 10% longevity advantage over people who do not have children.

"Previous studies found that people with children tend to have more social interactions, such as interactions with other parents and teachers, and higher social contact is known to be linked to longer life," Zhang explained. "It is possible that having two children strikes a balance between having a good amount of social interactions and not having too much economic or physical burden."

While this info may be new to use, researchers say it’s not new to them and their study is based off of the 1957 findings of evolutionary biologist George Williams, who coined the antagonistic pleiotropy theory of aging. These studies looked at genetic mutations and natural selection and how they affect life span. This study suggested that having kids earlier in life could shorten your lifespan and that having kids later in life would add to your years.

Also another study out of Sweden says having kids — any number of kids — will add at least an extra year to your life. They found that moms were more likely to see the benefit, but the rates of dads weren’t too far behind.

Another study out of Berlin focused on grandparents and said that years will be added to your life if you are an involved grandparent. So, now may be the time to call grandma and grandpa to see if they want to babysit.

Finally, a study from 2006 says daughters actually increase the longevity of their fathers, but daughters and sons equally reduce longevity of mothers. Yikes! Where is the love for mom?

So, what do these and other similar studies mean for parents? While fascinating, experts say it’s nothing to stress over because other factors like how much you are exercising, eating well, and taking care of your health will more likely determine your lifespan. Instead of stressing over the numbers in this study, try to make the best choices for you and your family.

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