Study Shows Parenthood May Reduce Risk Of Catching A Cold
Although it may not always feel that way, becoming a parent can actually be good for your health. According to a new study published in the July edition of Psychosomatic Medicine, parents were half as likely to catch a cold than non-parents regardless of any pre-existing immunity and even after exposing them to cold viruses.
The study included nearly 800 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 55, forty-two percent of which were parents. Before the study, respondents were asked about a variety of things that are known to affect health, like sleep, smoking, alcohol use, stress, education, marital status, as well as social support they might get from friends, family, and co-workers. Blood tests were then used to measure the level of antibodies already present in the participants that could impact the results.
After spending a day in quarantine to make sure they weren't already coming down with some kind of bug, researchers put drops containing cold viruses directly into their noses. Participants then spent five to six days sequestered in a lab. Blood tests showed that about three quarters of study participants were infected by the viruses, but only about one-third (32%) developed the sneezy, watery-eyed, congested symptoms of a full-blown cold.
According to the results, not only were parents half as likely to catch colds from the viruses as childless adults, but the protection seemed to go up the more children a person had. And parents who didn't live with their children saw the greatest protection, about 75% less likely to get sick after exposure to the virus compared to adults who didn't have children.
From an evolutionary perspective, researcher Rodlescia S. Sneed, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University, says it makes sense that parents would get an immune boost.
"One of the goals of having children is not even just having them, but raising them so that they can be successful, and in order to do that, you yourself have to be healthy," Sneed tells WebMD.
Still, she admits, there's no easy explanation for the findings. "We're thinking there might be some type of psychological benefits associated with parenthood that have implications [for health]," Sneed says.
However, one group of parents--those between ages 18 and 24--didn't see any added protection.
"There might actually be some negative psychological factors associated with being a parent at a young age. People who are young parents may not have as much social support, may not have the same social networks that older parents do. So any benefit you might see might be outweighed by these kinds of costs. That's kind of our theory about what might be happening."
Apparently, in parenthood, as in life, good things come to those who wait.
[image via AP]