Mother and child.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Being a parent reduces your risk of catching a cold—possibly because of
unknown "psychological or behavioral differences between parents and
nonparents," according to a study in the July issue of Psychosomatic
Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.
The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of
Wolters Kluwer Health.
Being a parent protects against colds
The risk of becoming ill after exposure
to cold viruses is reduced by about half in parents compared to
nonparents, regardless of pre-existing immunity, according to research
led by Rodlescia S. Sneed, MPH, and Sheldon Cohen, PhD of Carnegie
Mellon University, Pittsburgh. The study suggests that other, yet
unknown factors related to being a parent may affect susceptibility to
researchers analyzed data on 795 adults from three previous studies of
stress and social factors affecting susceptibility to the common cold.
In those studies, healthy volunteers were given nose drops containing
cold-causing rhinovirus or influenza viruses.
exposure, about one-third of volunteers developed clinical colds—typical
symptoms of a cold plus confirmed infection with one of the study
viruses. The analysis focused on whether being a parent affected the
risk of developing a cold, with adjustment for other factors.
results showed a lower rate of colds among parents, compared to
volunteers who were not parents. In the adjusted analysis, the risk of
developing a cold was 52 percent lower for parents.
That might be
expected on the basis of immunity—kids get colds, and parents may
develop protective antibodies against the specific viruses causing those
colds. However, the lower risk of colds in parents could not be
explained by pre-existing immunity, based on levels of antibodies to the
study viruses. Parents were less likely to develop colds whether or not
they had protective levels of antibodies.
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The protective effect
of parenthood increased along with the number of children (although
there were limited data on parents with three or more children). Parents
were at reduced risk of colds even when they didn't live with any of
their children. In fact, parents with no children at home had an even
larger, 73 percent reduction in risk.
The risk of colds was lower
for parents in most age groups. The only exception was parents in the
youngest age group—18 to 23 years—for whom the risk of colds was no
different than for nonparents. There was no difference in the risk of
colds for parents who were married versus unmarried.Psychological or behavioral factors may play a role
found parenthood predicted a decreased probability of colds among
healthy individuals exposed to a cold virus," Sneed and coauthors write.
The effect is independent of parental immunity, suggesting that
psychological or behavioral factors could be involved.
the study permits no conclusions as to what those protective factors
might be. One possibility is that being a parent improves regulation of
immune factors (cytokines) triggered in response to infection. Previous
studies have shown that cytokine responses explain the protective
effects of psychological factors—such as lower stress or a positive
attitude—against cold risk.
But more research will be needed to
clarify just how being a parent could affect the body's response to cold
viruses. Sneed and colleagues conclude, "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."This article was first published at www.newswise.com
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