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Child that still needs you lengthens your life expectancy

If you have children and want to have a long life, there are a number of factors that can push your life expectancy either way. If your children need you, then your chance of reaching a respectable age increases. But if you have a conflict with an offspring your chance of reaching old age is thirty percent less, report Spanish and Canadian epidemiologists in BMC Public Health.

Child that still needs you lengthens your life expectancy
Your social environment is one of the factors involved in determining the age you are likely to reach. It's for a good reason that we, the dedicated compilers of this web magazine, sometimes refer to positive social contacts as vitamin S. The researchers used data gathered for the Aging in Leganes study to assess the role that the social environment plays in life expectancy.

The Aging in Leganes study followed a group of almost 1,600 people in the Leganes district of Madrid from 1993 to 2008. All participants were 65 or older when the study began. The researchers used a questionnaire to find out whether the participants had good relations with their children and partners, whether they were socially active and whether they fulfilled an important function within their family.

As the study progressed it became clear that participants who had a bad relationship with their offspring were thirty percent more likely to die than participants who had normal relations with their children. On the other hand, a child that still needs its parents for whatever reason was a life-extending factor for the parent. Participants who indicated that they still played an important parental role in the lives of their offspring were thirty percent less likely to die than participants who were no longer important in their children's lives.

So a problem child, say one who returns regularly to the parental home to hide from the police, is not necessary a bad child as long as they don't have a conflict with the parents. The graph at the bottom of the page illustrates the life-extending effect of 'still being necessary for your children'.

Child that still needs you lengthens your life expectancy

Child that still needs you lengthens your life expectancy

If you made the mistake of bringing up your children to be so self-sufficient that they no longer need you, or you are waging war with your offspring, the researchers have good news for you. The positive health effect of stopping smoking is greater than that of parental role. Even more important is frequent intensive physical exercise.

Have you got a bone to pick with your children? Make a beeline for the fitness centre!

BMC Public Health. 2009 Sep 18;9:351.

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