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Want to Live a Long Life? Have Kids!

Studies show that parents live much longer than people who do not have children--they even get fewer colds.

Using statistics, Danish researcher Esben Agerbo discovered that women without children experienced an annual rate of death four times greater than those who gave birth, and for childless men the death rate was twice that of fathers.

However, the November 15-21st edition of the Economist reports that Agerbo was unable to discover WHY having children might be life-prolonging. He thinks it may be that people who have parental responsibilities may feel more of an obligation to look after themselves than those without don't--but that's just a guess.

Despite the fact that school-age kids seem to bring home one disease after another, scientists think that having kids can PROTECT you from disease--possibly because of unknown "psychological or behavioral differences between parents and nonparents."

According to recent research, the risk of becoming ill after exposure to cold viruses is reduced by about half in parents compared to nonparents, regardless of pre-existing immunity. The researchers analyzed data that showed a lower rate of colds among parents, compared to volunteers who were not parents. The risk of developing a cold was 52% lower for parents.

This may be because when kids get colds, their parents may develop protective antibodies against the specific viruses causing those colds (if they don't get even sicker than their kids). But this study suggests that other, yet unknown factors related to being a parent may affect susceptibility to illness--In fact, parents were at reduced risk of colds even when they didn't live with any of their children, suggesting that psychological or behavioral factors could be involved (maybe parents are so busy they just CAN'T get sick!)
On the other hand, many studies have found that being around school-age children INCREASES the risk of infection in adults, because kids are exposed to so many viruses that are rampant among young students. Kids, who have young and healthy immune systems, often shrug these viruses off, while their parents (who have older, less effective immune systems) are the ones who really suffer. Of people who come down with colds, the course of the infection is much more likely to be worse in people exposed to children.

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