First-time parenting may help mental health

Last updated 13:35 22/01/2013

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Becoming a first-time parent may improve mental health, Wellington research suggests.

A study from the University of Otago in Wellington, which has been published in the international Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, examined the experiences of more than 6500 first-time parents in New Zealand during 2004/2005 and 2008/2009.

The study claimed the birth of the first child could improve mental health and reduce psychological distress.
Research authors Sarah McKenzie and Dr Kristie Carter said the results were "good news" for parents in New Zealand.

"It shows the effects of becoming a parent for the first time tends to have a positive effect on parents' mental health," said McKenzie.

"Whereas, no real impact on mental health was found for parents having subsequent (second, third or fourth) children."

She said the improvements in mental health were positive, but not large.

The researchers said their study tested a larger sample of people than other studies in the field, as it included men and women, and married, single, and co-habiting parents.

Carter said more work is needed to look at the mental health of parents as their children get older, because of the strain on their income.

This study was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

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- The Dominion Post

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