New York: Children born into smaller families in the world's poorest nations live three years longer than those born into larger families, says a study.
In families that are considered small (four or fewer children), the children have a life expectancy that is three years longer than the children in larger families (five or more children) even controlling for infant mortality, the study revealed.
"Our new research shows that being born into a small family has health benefits that last throughout the course of your entire life," said Saifuddin Ahmed, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US.
The study showed that while family planning programmes have sometimes been pitched as ways to moderate population growth and minimize pressure on resource-strapped nations, they have real health impacts on individuals, the researchers said.
Small family size, primarily achieved through the use of contraception, reduces the competition of siblings for both the attention and micronutrients provided by the mother, and also allows the family's often-limited financial resources to be spread farther, the findings showed.
When births are spread out and mothers can provide more time to each child before the next one is born, it results in better cognitive development and health status while growing up, the researchers said.
Each child competes with the next for the parents' income, food and housing and having fewer children gives everyone a larger slice of the pie providing a positive healthy developmental environment that reduces mortality in the short-and long-term, the researchers added.
The findings are based on the results of the most recent national Demographic and Health Surveys from 35 developing countries and will be presented at the International Conference on Family Planning in Nusa Dua, Indonesia.