One in six women, and one in four men, have no children at 45 years old, an increase of 67% for women, and 79% for men since 1985.
In one generation, the percentage of childless people has increased from 9 to 15% among 45 year old women, and from 14 to 25% among men. 5 to 10% say they do not want children.
‘We know too little about the causes of this development. We want to understand what’s behind these changes, and we wish to understand the health consequences of childlessness, and the more complex forms of cohabitation we see today’, said Per Magnus, Senior Director at the Institute of Public Health to NTB news agency.
Wednesday is the official opening of the centre, which was awarded the status of the Center for Excellence in Research (SFF) in March. The topic of childlessness is the first project they’ll tackle.
Many women who don’t have children explain that they waited too long for pregnancy. Magnus pointed out that this explanation is far from good enough.
Many of those who wait a long time to have children can be helped. FHI’s Medical Birth Register shows that today, 4% of newborns are conceived by artificial fertilisation, 2,563 children only last year, which corresponds to one or two children in each classroom in Norway.
‘Perhaps the increase of environmental pollutants has biologically impaired fertility. Maybe it’s cultural changes, since it’s no longer obvious that you’ll go straight from confirmation, to work, and establishment of a family. The development of equality and contraception has also given women greater opportunity to decide if, and when, they’ll become pregnant’,saidMagnus.
‘There has also been a self-realisation trend during the last generation, in which Norwegians had many opportunities to do other things before choosing to have children, or instead of having children. We have grown richer, so we could avail ourselves of the possibilities,’ Magnus commented.
Magnus believes it’s particularly important that such a large percentage of men don’t have children.
‘For example, men who don’t have children, or a permanent partner, have a completely different health risk to those who have families, children and, perhaps, grandchildren,’ he pointed out.
There are also other contexts that suggest that societies and individuals benefit from a large percentage being parents.
Statistics Norway showed that six out of ten social assistance recipients are single men and women without children.
To find answers, researchers will gather data from health records, and large population surveys such as the Norwegian mother and child survey (MoBa), and quality assured biobanks.
‘Both researchers with medical and social science backgrounds are included, which means seeing more perspectives in context. We want to determine causes and consequences of increased childlessness for individuals and society as a whole,’ said Magnus.
The project will have a time scale of up to ten years, but findings will be published on a continuous basis.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today