Kids good for your health? Parents have lower blood pressure

by Sharon Jayson


42-15641400(USAtoday) Being a parent can be stressful, but new research calls into question some long-held beliefs about physical and psychological effects of having kids.  A study published today in Annals of Behavioral Medicine finds that parents have better blood pressure readings than childless adults.

“Women were driving the effect,” says co-author Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. “Women with children had the lowest blood pressure, and women without had the highest” of those studied.

Holt-Lunstad, along with researchers from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and California State University-Long Beach, monitored the blood pressure of 198 adults ages 20-68. Participants wore portable monitors, which took random readings three times an hour, multiple times a day, over 24 hours, including while they slept.

The researchers considered other factors that influence blood pressure, such as age, body mass, gender, exercise, employment and smoking. They controlled for length of marriage and duration of marriage before kids. Researchers compared parents with kids under age 2 to parents with teens to parents with kids over 18 and found no differences.

Thomas Kamarck, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh who has researched nighttime blood pressure, says he’s not sure about the link to parenthood.

He hasn’t yet seen the new study, but he says that “the fact that there’s no difference between young children and adult children” suggests that blood pressure readings reflect “something about the people who choose to be parents, rather than the day-to-day experience of being a parent” that may account for the findings.

Holt-Lunstad says researchers need to study parents and other adults over time to see whether parenthood actually does reduce blood pressure.