A new study from Carnegie Mellon University in the US finds that being a parent may reduce your risk of catching a cold. Researchers attribute this to a possible link with "psychological or behavioral differences between parents and nonparents."
According to a study in the July issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, 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.
The researchers analyzed data on 795 adults from three previous studies examining stress and social factors affecting susceptibility of catching a cold. In those studies, healthy volunteers were given nose drops containing cold-causing rhinovirus or influenza viruses. Results showed that fewer parents caught colds compared to volunteers who were not parents, who were 52 percent more likely to develop a cold.
Parents with one or two children were 48 percent less likely to get sick while parents with three or more children were 61 percent less likely to develop a cold. Also, parents with children living both at home and away from home showed a decreased risk of catching a cold.
"Although parenthood was clearly protective, we were unable to identify an explanation for this association," said study author Sheldon Cohen in a press release. "Because we controlled for immunity to the virus, we know that these differences did not occur just because the parents were more likely to have been exposed to the virus through their children."
The researchers suggest that being a parent improves regulation of immune factors, or cytokine, triggered in response to infection, noted the Science Daily website. Previous studies, the website also noted, have linked cytokine responses against catching a cold to other psychological factors, such as lower stress levels or a positive attitude.