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EVERYTHING BUT – Parent pressure

Ridley Greene

EVERYTHING BUT – Parent pressure

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Having one child makes you a parent. Having two or three makes you a referee.  – David Frost, British journalist, comedian, writer and media personality.
DAVID?FROST might be right about the transition from parent to referee, but a coolly healthy one that referee is likely to be – according to the conclusion of a study. Raising children can lower your blood pressure.
I stumbled on the year-old report this week. It is enough to make you laugh; but the Annals Of Behavioural Medicine is dead serious.
The journal, with a straight face (or is that cover?), says a Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad led the study of 198 adults who were each fitted with a portable blood pressure monitor for 24 hours as they went about their normal business. How normal indeed would this be with a strapped-on contraption measuring your every pulse and impulse?
Well, to their credit, researchers took into account other factors that could influence blood pressure, like state of health, age, weight (or overweight), exercise (you really should take that to mean lack of it), employment and drinking history (which must have been full in most cases).
It is amazing how researchers can reach even more astonishing conclusions by such a small sample of numbers and in such short time.
Raising children lowers your blood pressure! Well, well, well! Rearing these brats gives you gurgling gas (some of us flatulence), worries and ulcers, sleepless nights, a plethora of money problems, and grey hair. That is if you haven’t thrown them to cable network cartoons, the Nintendo, the school guidance counsellor and/or the BlackBerry – the last of which could get you in trouble with the school principal or Minister of Education Ronald Jones.
Of their study, Dr Holt-Lunstad et al. claimed that the average systolic blood pressure – the top number in a reading – was 4.5 points lower for parents than non-parents. The diastolic blood pressure – the bottom number in a reading – was, they said, three points lower.
The Annals Of Behavioural Medicine said the volunteers for the study were in “good health” and all married – which is a feat in itself – and that seven out of ten had children. And more spectacular yet, the effect among women was stronger.
Mothers had a 12- and seven-point difference in blood pressure compared with childless women.
Dr Holt-Lunstad’s argument is that while having and caring for children might have its daily hassles, deriving a sense of meaning and purpose from life’s stresses has been shown to result in better health.
Bajan married women should not take this to mean that they can now abandon the philosophy of the Barbados Family Planning Association, and not cover up, for the sake of lowering their blood pressure. The good Dr Holt-Lunstad has issued a most important warning.
“[The conclusion of the survey] doesn’t mean the more kids you have the better your blood pressure. The findings are simply tied to parenthood, no matter the number of children or employment status.”
During the study, conducted at Brigham Young University in Utah, United States, blood pressure measurements were taken at random intervals throughout the 24 hours, volunteers being monitored even as they slept.
Some time before, another study by the said doctor suggested that happily married people had lower blood pressure on average than single people – which should not be confused with people who are not married but are in unions. I will not be responsible for the health of any man in such unions of the latter.
If it is of any benefit, Dr Holt-Lunstad said her study showed that people who were in unhappy marriages – by my extrapolation, in unholy unions – had the worst blood pressure of all.
The moral is to get married and live ever happily after.
Today’s column is not intended in any way to suggest advice on marital bliss or matters of health. For such you should see a marriage counsellor and your medical doctor.