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A recent study conducted by the University of Oxford, involving over 2.5 million individuals from Finland and Sweden, highlights that millions of people who experienced various diseases during their youth have ultimately chosen not to have children. This research is a significant advancement in comprehending the health-related factors influencing childlessness, particularly in Western Europe and East Asia, where around 20 percent of individuals born around 1970 are childless.

Delayed parenthood a risk of involuntary childlessness

The rise in global childlessness is influenced by multiple factors, with delayed parenthood being a key contributor, posing a potential risk of involuntary childlessness. Dr. Aoxing Liu, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki’s Institute for Molecular Medicine, emphasizes that their study is the pioneering study examining the connection between various early-life diseases and a lifetime of childlessness and low parity in both men and women.

In the study of 1.4 million women and 1.1 million men born between 1956 and 1973, researchers investigated 414 early-life diseases. The analysis, which focused on sibling pairs with varying childlessness statuses, found a stronger association between disease and childlessness in individuals with no children or only one child, compared to those with multiple children.

Over 50% of the 74 diseases strongly linked to childlessness are mental-behavioral disorders, with novel connections discovered between autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and childlessness. Gender differences were noted, with schizophrenia and acute alcohol intoxication strongly linked with childlessness in men, while diabetes-related diseases and congenital anomalies had stronger links to childlessness in women.

Early childhood diseases like obesity linked to childlessness

The research examined disease onset timing’s impact on childlessness, finding women with early diagnoses (16-20) of certain conditions, like obesity, had higher childlessness rates than those diagnosed later. The study, led by Melinda Mills, stresses the importance of interdisciplinary research and increased public health focus on early-life diseases for both genders regarding childlessness.

This research finds a notable association between partner absence, childlessness, and certain diseases in women and men. Childless individuals, particularly singles, show increased likelihood of being without a partner. Six diseases in women and 11 in men remain linked to childlessness, even in those with partners.