Childless couples suffer from a higher death rate, according to a new study that also found that the prevalence of mental illness was cut in half in couples who became adoptive parents.
For the new study, researchers based their findings on data obtained from various population registers in Denmark on births and deaths, assisted conception (IVF) procedures, hospital admissions, psychiatric service contacts, plus labor market statistics.
Between 1994 and 2005, 21,276 childless couples were registered for IVF treatment; 15,210 children were born and 1,564 adopted.
During the same period, 96 women and 200 men died, corresponding to a death rate of 51 and 117 per 100,000 person years. Meanwhile, 710 women and 553 men were diagnosed with a mental health problem, corresponding to rates of 385 and 299 per 100,000 person years, respectively.
The early death rate from circulatory disease, cancers, and accidents among childless women was four times as high as that among those who gave birth to their own child, and 50 percent lower among women who adopted, according to the researchers.
Rates of death were around twice as high among men who did not become parents, either biologically or through adoption.
Rates of mental illness were similar between couples with and without children of their own, with the exception of those with drug and alcohol problems, the researchers noted, adding the prevalence of mental illness in couples who adopted kids was around half that of other parents.
“Mindful that association is not [the same thing as] causation, our results suggest that the mortality rates are higher in the childless,” the researchers say in their study, which was published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
“Rates of psychiatric illness do not appear to vary with childlessness, but the rate of psychiatric illness in parents who adopt is decreased.”
Source: BMJ-British Medical Journal