-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A new study of couples
treated for infertility found a significantly higher death rate
among couples who remained childless and lower odds of psychiatric
illness among those who adopt.
Researchers in Denmark found death rates were two to four times
higher among childless couples, even after taking age, education,
income and other health problems into account. Adoption increased
longevity and cut the rate of mental illness in half, they
"This study finds that men and particularly women who become parents have a decreased rate of death," the study's authors wrote. "Mindful that association is not [the same as] causation, our results suggest that the mortality rates are higher in the childless."
For the study, published online Dec. 6 in the
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the
researchers examined information on more than 21,000 childless
couples in Denmark who underwent assisted reproductive procedures,
such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Between 1994 and 2005, they found more than 15,000 children were
born and nearly 1,600 couples adopted. During these years, 200 men
and nearly 100 women died. And more than 700 women and about 550
men were diagnosed with a mental illness.
The early death rate from cancer, circulatory disease and
accidents was four times higher among childless women than women
who gave birth to a biological child, the study revealed. Death
rates were twice as high for childless men as those who were
The study's authors said the positive effect that becoming
parents had on life expectancy applied to adoptive parents as well.
The study found that early death rates were cut in half among women
who adopted a child. Death rates also were twice as high for
childless men as for those who became fathers through adoption.
Although rates of mental illness were similar among biological
parents and the childless, the researchers noted that mental
illness was about half as common among couples that adopted a
child. Their findings suggest the rate of substance use is also
higher among the childless, they said in a journal news
Previous studies suggested unhealthy behaviors and health issues
were to blame for reduced life expectancy among people without
children, the researchers noted. They pointed out few other studies
distinguished between voluntary and involuntary childlessness.
The authors acknowledge some limitations to their study and said
the findings might not apply to others who are childless
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides
infertility and childlessness.
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