On some days parents might envy their friends who don’t have children but a new study from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests that “mortality rates are higher in the childless.” What could be some reasons for this phenomenon?

1. Parents better themselves in order to be a good example. Because parents are the most powerful and important models for their children, it can motivate parents to take an increased interest in their health and engage in less-risky behavior in order to set a good example for their little ones. As Robert Fulghum author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten has said, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

2. Parents want to be present for the important milestones in their offsprings’ lives. In order to be an effective parent, it is important to build a good relationship with our children by participating in their lives. Through this involvement, the parent-child relationship is strengthened causing parents and children to have a connection way beyond the childhood years. Parents get the chance to have many events and special moments to look forward to with their progeny which could account for some of the life-extending quality of this endeavor.

3. Parents have the opportunity to learn to deal more effectively with stress. As any parent knows, life is extremely busy with children. In order to cope, one must learn to be flexible and effective strategies to manage the stress created from the day’s responsibilities. Some good skills that can assist parents are deep breathing, visualization, exercise and becoming aware of destructive thoughts and replacing them with positive, calming thoughts.

4. Parenting increases important social connections. Being a parent allows a person to spend time being part of a continuous social relationship. Researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill compiled more than 145 studies and determined that “those with poor social connections had on average 50% higher odds of death” which was “as large as the mortality difference observed between smokers and nonsmokers”, from Recipe for Longevity: No Smoking, Lots of Friends.

While being a parent sometimes feels defeating and often exhausting, it comes with many benefits that are hard to measure such as feeling a love stronger than can be explained. It might just be helpful to know that it can lengthen one’s life in those moments where the challenges feel like they outweigh the advantages.