Parenthood More Depressing Than Death of Spouse

German study gives us the bad news
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2015 7:45 PM CDT
Parenthood More Depressing Than Death of Spouse
A mother comforts her baby daughter.   (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati, file)

Why do so many people in the developed world stop having children after their first? That's the question researchers set out to answer in a study recently published in Demography. According to their findings, having a child made the majority of participants more unhappy than the death of a partner, divorce, or unemployment, the Washington Post reports. The study looked at 2,016 Germans from before their first child to at least two years after, asking them to rate their general happiness through major life events on a scale of 1 to 10. About 70% of respondents saw their happiness decrease in the year after the child's birth, with the average drop measuring 1.4 units—which researchers consider a "severe" decline (a partner's death registered only one unit).

The Post reports the biggest reason for new parents' falling happiness is the "continuous and intense nature of childbearing," which includes sleep deprivation, breast-feeding woes, depression, and relationship troubles. But biological anthropologist Helen Fisher puts the blame on the social isolation of new parents, reports CBS News. She says that with divorce, death, and unemployment, people trip over themselves to help and support you, but with childbirth "you get some presents from various friends, and then they just leave you alone because they figure you're too tired and too busy." The study concludes that governments fretting over low birth rates—Germany's is 1.5 per woman—should see how they can support new parents. (Here's what made us happy in 1938 ... and 7 decades later.)

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