Kids can now take credit for their parents' good health. Research says parenthood is linked with lower blood pressure (BP), particularly among women.
Brigham Young University (BYU) researchers found that other things being equal, parents scored 4.5 points lower than non-parents in systolic BP (the top number) and three points lower than non-parents in diastolic (low number) BP.
The effect was more pronounced among women, with motherhood corresponding to a 12-point difference in systolic BP and a seven-point difference in diastolic BP.
Of course, parenthood is not the only route to low BP - daily exercise and a low-sodium diet also does the trick. The noteworthy aspect of the study is the idea that social factors may also protect physical health.
"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," says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, BYU psychologist who studies relationships and health.
The study involved 198 adults who wore portable BP monitors, mostly concealed by their clothes, for 24 hours. They took measurements at random intervals throughout the day - even while participants slept.
A statistical analysis allowed the researchers to account for other factors known to influence BP - things like age, body mass, gender, exercise, employment and smoking - and zero in on the effect of parenthood, said a BYU release.
The findings were published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.