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Parenting Linked to Better Mental Health

Update Date: Jan 24, 2013 08:07 AM EST
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Being parents for the first time improves parents' mental health and reduces psychological stress, says a new study from New Zealand.

"This is good news for new parents in New Zealand as it shows the effects of becoming a parent for the first time tends to have a positive effect on parents' mental health. Whereas, no real impact on mental health was found for parents having subsequent (second, third or fourth) children," said Sarah Mckenzie, from the Health Inequalities Research Programme at University of Otago, in a news release.

The study included 6670 parents in the Statistics New Zealand longitudinal Survey of Family, Income and Employment (SoFIE). Study participants reflected all kinds of families like single parents, married or co-habiting parents.

Researchers said that they found a positive association between mental health and first-time parenting. However, they added that the effects weren't large. Also, men were just as likely to report reduced mental stress as women.

"Interestingly, unlike some overseas studies, we didn't find any major differences between men and women in changes in mental health and becoming a parent for the first time," McKenzie said.

The study accounted for various variables that may have affected the study results like partner status, employment and household income. Researchers said that further investigation of parenting and happiness should focus on financial status of the parents and arrival of the newborn as most of the times, parents see a decline in their income when caring for the baby.

"At this point international evidence shows it's very important for welfare policies to support the economic position of new parents to ensure their mental health is supported during this major change to their life and their children," said Dr Kristie Carter, also from the Health Inequalities Research Programme at UOW.

The study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

A recent study article by Debra Umberson and colleagues shows how parenting or childlessness affects well-being of people through their lives.

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