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Who's healthier: Women with children or women without?

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Ask any mom: Having children can do a number on a woman's health.

Sleepless nights. Nibbling on kids' leftovers. The stress of juggling it all.

But what if it were women who'd never had children who were the unhealthy ones?

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A new Australian study suggests as much. In the Deakin University study, researchers looked at the mental and physical health of 50 childless women and compared it to general female population (which included women with and without children).

They found that childless women appear to be in poorer general health, and rank lower on measures of vitality, social functioning and mental health.

"While the results of our study might not paint a rosy picture, they do not mean that childlessness is a health hazard for women," Melissa Graham, a researcher with Deakin's School of Health and Social Development, said in a statement.

It may be that poor health results in a woman being less likely to have children - not the other way around, suggested the researchers.

Although the study did not look at all the reasons for childlessness, Dr. Graham speculates that the health of childless women may actually be affected by societal pressure and the stigma associated with not having babies.

A post about the study on Jezebel drew a number of serious comments, mostly from women who'd decided not to have children.

One, yellowsubroutine, wrote that at 36 she had no regrets.

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"I've always thought of children as similar to llamas. They're very interesting and they have their role to play, but I don't want one in my home."

Parents, non-parents: Who is healthiest in your circle of friends? And do you think the push to reproduce could, in fact, be bad for women's overall health?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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