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Fertility history and cause-specific mortality: A register-based analysis of complete cohorts of Norwegian women and men

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  • Grundy, Emily
  • Kravdal, Øystein

Abstract

The relationship between women's reproductive histories and later all-cause mortality has been investigated in several studies, with mixed results. Some studies have also considered cause-specific mortality and some have included men, but none has done both. We analyse associations between parity and age of first birth for women and men across 11 cause-of-death groupings using Norwegian register data for complete cohorts born 1935-1968 whose mortality was observed 1980-2003 (i.e. at ages 45-68). Age, period, educational level, marital status, region of residence and population size of municipality were included as co-variates. In total, there were 63,000 deaths. Results showed that relative to parents of two children, childless men and women and those with one child had higher mortality risks for nearly all cause of death groupings. High parity (4+Â children) was associated with raised male mortality from accidents and violence and higher mortality from cancer of the cervix among women. For other cause and gender groupings there was either little difference between those with two children and those of higher parities or an overall negative association between parity and mortality. Among men with the lowest level of education, however, high parity was positively associated with mortality from circulatory diseases. For all causes except female breast cancer, there was an inverse association between age at first birth and mortality risk. Similarities observed across cause groups and for women and men suggest that much of the fertility-mortality relationship is a result of selection or effects of reproductive behaviour on lifestyle. The latter may include both beneficial effects and harmful stress responses. However, physiological mechanisms are most probably important for some causes of death for women. Research on associations between parenting histories, health related behaviours, social support exchanges and reported or measured stress is needed to clarify mechanisms underlying the associations reported here.

Suggested Citation

  • Grundy, Emily & Kravdal, Øystein, 2010. "Fertility history and cause-specific mortality: A register-based analysis of complete cohorts of Norwegian women and men," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(11), pages 1847-1857, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:70:y:2010:i:11:p:1847-1857
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Arnstein Aassve & Stefano Mazzuco & Letizia Mencarini, 2006. "An empirical investigation into the effect of childbearing on economic wellbeing in Europe," Statistical Methods & Applications, Springer;Società Italiana di Statistica, vol. 15(2), pages 209-227, August.
    2. Mirowsky, John & Ross, Catherine E., 2002. "Depression, parenthood, and age at first birth," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(8), pages 1281-1298, April.
    3. Grundy, Emily & Holt, Gemma, 2000. "Adult life experiences and health in early old age in Great Britain," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(7), pages 1061-1074, October.
    4. Lucie Schmidt, 2008. "Risk preferences and the timing of marriage and childbearing," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 45(2), pages 439-460, May.
    5. Ringbäck Weitoft, Gunilla & Burström, Bo & Rosén, Måns, 2004. "Premature mortality among lone fathers and childless men," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(7), pages 1449-1459, October.
    6. Antonucci, Toni C. & Ajrouch, Kristine J. & Janevic, Mary R., 2003. "The effect of social relations with children on the education-health link in men and women aged 40 and over," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 949-960, March.
    7. Grundy, Emily & Tomassini, Cecilia, 2005. "Fertility history and health in later life: a record linkage study in England and Wales," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 217-228, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Øystein Kravdal, 2014. "The Estimation of Fertility Effects on Happiness: Even More Difficult than Usually Acknowledged," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 30(3), pages 263-290, August.
    2. Robin S. Högnäs & David J. Roelfs & Eran Shor & Christa Moore & Thomas Reece, 2017. "J-Curve? A Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression of Parity and Parental Mortality," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 36(2), pages 273-308, April.
    3. Kravdal, Øystein, 2013. "Reflections on the Search for Fertility Effects on Happiness," Memorandum 10/2013, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    4. Berntsen, Kjersti Norgård & Kravdal, Øystein, 2012. "The relationship between mortality and time since divorce, widowhood or remarriage in Norway," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(12), pages 2267-2274.
    5. Kravdal, Øystein, 2016. "Expected and unexpected consequences of childbearing – a methodologically and politically important distinction that is overlooked," Memorandum 05/2016, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    6. Martin O’Flaherty & Janeen Baxter & Michele Haynes & Gavin Turrell, 2016. "The Family Life Course and Health: Partnership, Fertility Histories, and Later-Life Physical Health Trajectories in Australia," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(3), pages 777-804, June.
    7. Christiansen, Solveig Glestad, 2014. "The association between grandparenthood and mortality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 89-96.
    8. Barclay, Kieron & Keenan, Katherine & Grundy, Emily & Kolk, Martin & Myrskylä, Mikko, 2016. "Reproductive history and post-reproductive mortality: A sibling comparison analysis using Swedish register data," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 82-92.
    9. Barclay, Kieron & Keenan, Katherine & Grundy, Emily & Kolk, Martin & Myrskylä, Mikko, 2016. "Reproductive history and post-reproductive mortality: a sibling comparison analysis using Swedish register data," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 65602, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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