Having more than 2 children impacts cognition at the end of life: study
While recent research has warned of the potential downsides of declining fertility rates in the United States, a new study has found that having three or more children negatively affects late-life cognition.
“To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first to demonstrate a causal effect of higher fertility on late-life cognition,” researchers said. Eric Bonsang and Vegard Skirbek explain in their articleDoes motherhood affect cognitive health later in life? Evidence of an instrumental variable approach” published in Demography, the flagship journal of the Population Association of America.
“We found that having three or more children compared to two leads to worse late cognition in Europe for both men and women. The negative effect of having three or more children compared to two children is significant, equivalent in our sample to being 6.2 years older and almost the same as the cognitive advantage associated with having completed secondary education compared to primary,” the researchers said.
The researchers used data collected from 73,353 participants who only had biological children spread across 19 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg , Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Participants provided information for the study through a computer-assisted personal interview program and a paper-and-pencil questionnaire.
Bonsand and Skirbekk said their findings suggest that if Europe reduces the number of people with three or more children, it could lead to better cognitive health in older people.
“Given the magnitude of the effect, future studies of end-of-life cognition should also examine fertility as a predictor alongside more commonly researched predictors, such as education, work experiences, “exercise and mental and physical health. We also need more information about the types of interactions, supports, and conflicts that occur between parents and children, which may influence cognitive outcomes,” the researchers said.
The study also noted that the negative cognitive effect of having three or more children compared to two children was greatest in Northern Europe compared to other European regions despite the Nordic countries having a higher standard of living. higher.
Even though the standard of living is higher in the Nordic countries, the cost of goods and services was three times higher, creating difficulties for parents with more than two children.
“Having a third child in Northern Europe may therefore entail higher financial costs (and potentially greater financial stress) than in many other regions. Additionally, the expectation that children should look after their parents elderly may be weaker in Northern Europe, where institutions to provide support,” Bonsand and Skirbekk noted.
The researchers also found that people whose first two children are of the same sex, two sons or two daughters, were more likely to have more than two children, but the likelihood was slightly higher among parents whose first two children are girls.
“People whose first two children are of the same sex have more children than people whose first two children are of mixed sex…they are also more likely to have three or more children compared to their peers whose the first two children are of mixed sex,” the researchers said.
As the study only looked at the impact of having more than two children on cognition in later life, Bonsand and Skirbekk said that future studies should examine the impact of having fewer than two children or not at all about cognition at the end of life.
They cited studies that suggest that “being childless (compared to having two children) is also linked to impaired late cognition in women.”
“They (other researchers) argue that having children provides a source of interactions and promotes social activities associated with better cognitive functioning. However, other aspects of infertility may have positive consequences on late cognitive functioning by placing fewer financial and time constraints in adulthood compared to having children,” Bonsand and Skirbekk said.
American women are expected to have about 1.6 children in their lifetime, which is well below the population replacement level of 2.1 children per woman, according to a recent study published by The Christian Post.
Wendy Wang, director of research at the Institute for Family Studies, noted in a recently published article research paper that without appropriate interventions, a continued decline in the nation’s fertility rate would lead to aging and a shrinking US population. This would lead to lower productivity and instability in the financing of old age programs such as social security and health insurance.