Three children equals 6.2 years of ageing

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With age, cognitive skills such as memory and processing speed decline. A study now concludes that family size plays a role in the severity of the decline. Parents with three or more children age faster than parents with two children.

“The negative effect is equivalent to 6.2 years of aging,” says the research team, which used data from 20 European countries, including Austria and Israel. That’s almost as big as the cognitive benefit associated with completing high school compared to elementary school. The difference with parents with two children is partly explained by a lower labor force participation of women and a decrease in family income. This would create financial worries and insecurities that could cause cognitive decline. Another aspect is the stress caused by extra children, which can affect the health behavior and thus the cognitive development of the parents.

Other differences depending on occupation and education
The researchers spoke of a “causal effect” that was similar in men and women and was strongest in Northern Europe. There, a higher birth rate leads to fewer financial resources, while more children do not improve social resources. According to the study, there are differences in the decline in cognitive skills with age, not only by family size, but also by education, occupation and genetic factors, for example. Data was collected from people who were 65 years of age or older and had at least two biological children. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI), Columbia University (USA) and the University of Paris-Dauphine (France) collected information on health status, occupational history and socioeconomic status.

consequences of childlessness
Collectively, cognitive decline varied widely between individuals and subgroups of the population. The effects of childlessness were not included in the study. However, the research team concluded that having children reduces the social isolation of older people. Those who are socially isolated, in turn, have a higher risk of cognitive impairment.

Source: Krone

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