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Parents are Less Likely to Catch a Cold


Parents are Less Likely to Catch a Cold

Being a parent appears to have an unexpected health benefit. A new study shows that parents are less likely to catch a cold than people who don’t have kids.

As a parent, having a child in daycare or school pretty much guaranteed that I’d get sick with the germs my child brought home. But a new study led by Carnegie Mellon University researchers shows that parents are less likely to catch a cold than people who don’t have kids.

In fact, parents are 52 percent less likely to develop a cold than nonparents. The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, looked at the positive and negative effects that parenthood can have on one’s health. Being a parent can be stressful at times yet totally fulfilling.

The study

Researchers exposed 795 healthy adults, ranging in age from 18 to 55, to a virus that causes the common cold. They collected data on participants’ age; sex; race and ethnicity; body mass; and marital, parenthood, education, and employment status.

Parental protection

Parents proved to be healthier than nonparents, and number of children also appeared to influence their health:

  • parents with one or two kids were 48 percent less likely to get sick
  • those with three or more kids were 61 percent less likely to get sick

Whether children lived at home or had left home, parents were still less likely to catch a cold.

Benefit of age

Age also appeared to play a role: those parents older than age 24 were more likely to be protected from the cold virus. Parents between the ages of 18 and 24 didn’t appear to have cold protection by virtue of being a parent.

“Although parenthood was clearly protective, we were unable to identify an explanation for this association,” researcher Sheldon Cohen said. “Because we controlled for immunity to the virus, we know that these differences did not occur just because the parents were more likely to have been exposed to the virus through their children.”

Unknown psychological benefit

Researchers stated that parents and nonparents exhibited few psychological or biological differences, and any that did show up couldn’t explain the protective benefit of parenthood. An unknown psychological benefit of parenthood that wasn’t measured or taken into consideration may have been the reason for parents’ increased immunity to the common cold.

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