Parenting REDUCES blood pressure
They may give you grey hair, sleepless nights and a host of worries about money, health and school.
But raising children can actually lower your blood pressure, a study suggests.
While the finding may provoke guffaws of disbelief among parents, the principle is that parenthood gives people ‘a sense of purpose and meaning’ which helps to reduce stress and put the hassles of life into perspective.
The conclusion comes from a study of 198 adults who were fitted with portable blood pressure monitors for 24 hours as they went about their normal lives.
Researchers took into account other factors that can influence blood pressure, such as health, age, weight, exercise, employment and drinking history.
All other things being equal, the average systolic blood pressure – the top number in a reading – was 4.5 points lower for parents than non-parents.
The diastolic blood pressure – the bottom number in a reading – was three points lower, the scientists reported in the journal Annals of Behavioural Medicine.
The effect was stronger among women. Mothers had a 12 and seven-point difference in blood pressure compared with childless women.
Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, who led the study at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, said: ‘While caring for children may include daily hassles, deriving a sense of meaning and purpose from life’s stress has been shown to be associated with better health outcomes.’
Many parents, who cast an envious eye over the apparently carefree lives of childless couples, may disagree.
But although the number involved in the study was relatively small, Dr Holt-Lunstad said the size of the difference between parents and childless people was unlikely to be explained by chance alone.
‘This doesn’t mean the more kids you have, the better your blood pressure,’ she added. ‘The findings are simply tied to parenthood, no matter the number of children or employment status.’
All the volunteers were married and in good health. Seven out of ten had children.
Blood pressure measurements were taken at random intervals throughout the day. Volunteers were even monitored while they slept.
Last year, a study by Dr Holt-Lunstad found that happily married people had lower blood pressure on average than single people.
But those who were in an unhappy marriage had the worst blood pressure of all.