Parenting … lowers blood pressure?

You’ve been there. Your child just won’t get in the car/eat his dinner/clean up his toys. Your heart starts to pound, you can feel your face flush, and you think your blood might actually start to boil.

Parenting moments like these can send your blood pressure through the roof.

So how to explain a new study finding lower blood pressure among parents than people without kids?

Running contrary to nearly every piece of scientific evidence already out there — and to the experience of parents everywhere — researchers at Brigham Young University reported this week that parents actually have lower blood pressure than childless couples.

This was truer among women than men, according to the study.

Lead author Julianne Holt-Lunstad says:

“While caring for children may include daily hassles, deriving a sense of meaning and purpose from life’s stress has been shown to be associated with better health outcomes.”

The researchers tracked 198 parents ages 20 to 68 with portable blood pressure monitors. Accounting for things like diet and exercise, parents scored 4.5 points lower than non-parents in systolic blood pressure (the top number) and 3 points lower than non-parents in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number). Parents had an average blood pressure of 116/71 — not too shabby.

The question of whether having kids makes you happier isn’t a new one, either in scientific literature or for this blog. Almost all the research says that over the course of a lifetime, people with kids report being less happy than those without.

The one exception was a study released in November, which found that married parents reported being slightly happier than childless couples. And this most recent report used only married participants, which may explain the findings: The load of parenting are imaginably lighter when shared with someone else.

So next time your having a “what-exactly-possessed-me-to-have-kids-again?” moment, take a deep breath and remember that, as hard as it is to believe, your heart appreciates it.

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