When mothers have children that particularly challenge them, you will often hear some mothers say “this child will be the death of me!” While we can assume that the mothers who say this only say it in a moment of frustration and don’t actually mean it nor believe it, it turns out that they are on to something, especially if the child they are talking about is a boy.
For fathers, it turns out this is not true. A new study claims that having a baby boy can shorten the life of a parent; but only the mother and not the father.
New research shows that they may be right: Having sons can shave an average of eight and a half months off of a mom’s life.
(The affect on dads? None, apparently.)
The study, by evolutionary ecologist Dr. Samuli Helle of the University of Turku in Finland and Dr. Virpi Lummaa of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, was published this week in the journal Biology Letters. He and his team looked at the post-childbirth survival rates of 11,166 mothers and 6,360 fathers in pre-industrial Finland, using records kept by the Lutheran Church there.
“Irrespective of access to resources, mothers, but not fathers, with many sons suffered from reduced post-reproductive survival,” they wrote in the study.
The subjects were born in eight different parts of Finland during the 17th to 20th centuries—a time period when the mostly agricultural society did not have access to modern medical care or birth control. After crunching the numbers, the researchers found that a mother who bore six sons would live on average another 32.4 years after the youngest son’s birth, while a mother who gave birth to girls would live approximately 33.1 years after her youngest daughter came along.
The shorter life expectancy was the same regardless of the mom’s social or financial status, though Helle said that “societal and cultural reasons could also play a factor.”