Curejoy Expert Claude Butler Explains:
There is increasing concern about the childless elderly population which has prompted debates about the negative effects of childlessness with respect to one’s psychological well-being. One in five American women in their early forties is childless, rising to a third of women in the same age bracket in Germany and Japan. Most research examining health and well-being differentials between women with and without children has produced conflicting results.
In one study, Childlessness per se did not significantly increase the prevalence of loneliness and depression at advanced ages, net of other factors. There also was no statistical evidence for the hypothesis that childlessness increases loneliness and depression for divorced, widowed, and never married elderly persons.
However, sex altered how childlessness and marital status influenced psychological well-being. Divorced, widowed, and never married men who were childless had significantly higher rates of loneliness compared with women in comparable circumstances; divorced and widowed men who were childless also had significantly higher rates of depression than divorced and widowed women.
Another study found that childless women experience poorer physical and mental health and well-being during the peak reproductive years; however, this trend was reversed for women aged 65 years or more. Although never-married, childless women experienced better health and well-being compared with mothers, this was not the case for childless women who were divorced, separated, or widowed or in a relationship.