Good news for parents — and especially moms — from the land of science this week: According to a new study reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, mothers can expect to live an average 23.1 years longer after the age of 60, simply for having had kids — which equates to 1.5 years longer than women who did not have kids.
The study, which was recently published on New Scientist, followed more than 1.4 million people in Sweden. In the end, researchers found that of those people, it was parents who tended to live longer than non-parents. While moms could expect to live another 23.1 years past the age of 60, dads were not to be left in the lurch, as they were expected to live an additional 18.4 years. And while an extra 1.5 years of life doesn’t seem to be that long, when you’re a parent, that means extra holidays, more seasons, and time to bond and watch life in those around you bloom. Those 1.5 years could mean seeing great grandchildren or feeling the pride of witnessing your brood achieve successes that you never dreamed of.
Science can’t exactly explain just why it is that parents tend to live longer, but the working theory is that children have a natural inclination to take care of their parents. The extra social and emotional support of adult children may mean the difference in quality health care, preventing elder abuse, encouraging an active lifestyle, and more. These are all the same things that younger parents do for their kids, so in some ways, this is a beautiful example of karma being played out over a lifetime between parents and children.
There was also one more interesting tidbit this study turned up: While it used to be the belief in academia and research circles that daughters would bear the brunt of the hard work in taking care of elderly parents, this new research data suggests that “it was just as beneficial [for parents] to have a boy as it was to have a girl.” This is exceptionally good news for women everywhere, as it indicates that attitudes and expectations around gender-based nurturing are fading.
As a mother to two young kids myself, this kind of science news makes me feel relieved to know that I have greater odds of sticking around longer to watch my kids grow up. And while I may still secretly want to be that crazy lady who lives past 110 years old and still calls my kids and asks them if they took their vitamins, I am also pretty hopeful that my children will want to nurture me and make sure that my final sunset years are blissful ones.
(Fingers crossed that my future adult children don’t pull a Golden Girls on me and book me a room at Shady Pines!)