A new study suggests being childless may increase the risk of dying prematurely, especially in women.
Scientists say the study throws new light on the age-old question of whether life fulfilment provided by children can actually extend your years.
The answer appears to be yes – but only compared with people who want children and are unable to have them.
In these circumstances, adoption may reduce the risk of early death, according to Danish scientists.
But their investigation did not look at whether couples who choose to be childless are likely to have shorter lives as a result.
Among possible reasons for early death rates are risky behaviours, such as more drinking and drug abuse, depression and psychiatric illness, and physical illness linked to their infertility.
Professor Esben Agerbo, of Aarhus University, who led the research, said the study was a ‘natural experiment’ because it only analysed data from parents who wanted a child and were actively seeking to do so using IVF treatment.
He said it found an ‘association’ between being childless and dying prematurely but no link with higher rates of mental illness.
He said ‘Mindful that association is not causation, our study suggests that the mortality rates are higher in the childless.
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