Having kids helps keep your brain in tip-top shape, study finds

Jul 29, 2020
New research has found being a parent actually helps keep your brain young. Source: Getty.

It turns out the old saying ‘kids keep you young’ might have some truth to it after all as a new study has found that being a parent actually helps keep your brain young. The study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One on Wednesday found women who have had more kids tend to have better memory function later in life.

“We found a positive relationship between the number of children parented and cortical thickness in the parahippocampal gyrus [cortical region of the brain] of older adult mothers,” the researchers wrote in the study. “Parenthood appears to be associated with a small but reliable improvement in memory outcomes for older mothers.”

The research also found that both mums and dads over 70 had thicker cortical brain regions than people who had never had kids. Generally, the thickness of your brain’s grey matter declines with age.

The researchers added that parenthood is a learning experience that lasts for two or more decades and, as such, may contribute to brain health. However, the researchers said this type of study can’t show that having kids actually caused improvements in brain function.

“This study is the first examination of the relationship between parenthood and the ageing human
brain,” the researchers wrote. “Our results suggest that there is a modest, but reproducible, relationship between parenthood and cortical thickness in the aged brain

And the benefits of having children doesn’t stop there — a previous study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 2012 found being a parent reduces your risk of catching a cold. The study found the risk of becoming ill after exposure to cold viruses is reduced by about half in parents compared to non parents, regardless of pre-existing immunity. Researchers attributed this to a possible link with “psychological or behavioural differences between parents and non parents”.

“We found parenthood predicted a decreased probability of colds among healthy individuals exposed to a cold virus,” the authors said. “Our results, while provocative, have left room for future studies to pursue how various aspects of parenthood (eg, frequency of contact with children, quality of parent/child relationships) might be related to physical health, and how parenthood could ‘get under the skin’ to influence physical health.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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