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Motherhood a buffer against suicide

Supporting the theory that parenthood offers a buffer against suicidal behaviour, a new study finds that the more children a woman has, the lower her suicide risk.

Motherhood a buffer against suicide

Supporting the theory that parenthood offers a buffer against suicidal behaviour, a new study finds that the more children a woman has, the lower her suicide risk.

Historically lower suicide rates are seen among married versus unmarried women reflecting a protective effect of motherhood, rather than advantages of marriage per se. To examine whether there is an association between motherhood and risk of death from suicide among women, researchers studied 1 292462 women in Taiwan who had a first live birth between 1978 and 1987. The women were followed up from the date of their first birth till 2007. Their vital status was ascertained by means of linking records with data from a computerised mortality database. During the thirty years of follow-up, there were a total of 2252 suicides.

It was found that women with two children were 39 percent less likely than those with one child to commit suicide. That risk was 60 percent lower among women with three or more children. Suicide was uncommon regardless of the number of children the women had. Among women with one child, there were 11 suicides per 100,000 women per year; that rate was seven per 100,000 among women with two children, and just under six per 100,000 among mothers with three or more children. When the researchers took other factors like women's age at first birth, marital status and education level into consideration, the number of children a woman had remained linked to suicide risk.

The researchers attributed the above findings to the assumption that women with more children benefit from greater emotional or material support when times are tough. Women who have several children also spend a larger share of their lives caring for young children compared with mothers who have one child, and mothers who feel needed are less vulnerable to suicide. However, the researcher also noted that women who are already more vulnerable to suicide - because of serious depression or other psychiatric illnesses - tend to have fewer children.

Studies done in Norway, Denmark and Finland have found a similar relationship between a woman's number of children and her risk of suicide.

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