Working-age adults who live with young children are less likely to die of Covid-19 and other causes, research suggests.
The findings, which are yet to be peer-reviewed, come from a population-based study involving nearly 12 million adults in England.
The researchers found that adults aged below 65, who were living with youngsters between 0-11 years old, were about 25% less likely to die of Covid-19 and had a 32% lower risk of dying from non-Covid-19 causes, compared with those without children.
The researchers believe this is because those with young children in their homes are more likely to lead healthier lifestyles, putting them at slightly lower risk of dying from Covid-19 or other causes.
Liam Smeeth, professor of clinical epidemiology at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “People who live with children – parents in particular – generally are a little bit healthier (and have) healthier lifestyles, meaning they do generally have a lower risk of bad health outcomes.
“We saw that for Covid, just as we saw for all sorts of other causes.”
The researchers also looked to see whether children passing on colds, caused by four other seasonal human coronaviruses, may provide protective immunity against Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
They said that based on the results, any cross-reactive immunity to Sars-CoV-2 from other coronavirus was unlikely.
Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The assumption among many people was that they had some kind of immunity from exposure to these coronaviruses.
“I think that that is very, very unlikely from the results of our study – we do not find that that theory has any backing from our results.
“And so, we are still left with a puzzle as to why children do have low risk (of Covid-19).”
The scientists used a data platform, known as OpenSAFELY, to analyse health records of 12 million adults, comparing the Covid-19 risks in those living with and without children.
The researchers also found that living with older children, aged 12-18 years, was associated with a slightly increased risk (8%) of infection among working-age adults ages but not with other Covid-19 outcomes such as hospital or intensive care unit (ICU) admissions.
And for those over 65 years, the team said there was no difference in risk of recorded infection or Covid-19 related outcomes for people living with or without children of any age.
However, the researchers are quick to emphasise that the study does not cover schools reopening as it contains data from between February and August 2020, covering the period of school closures in spring but not full reopening in September.
Dr Ben Goldacre, director of DataLab in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at University of Oxford, said: “Our analysis looks at the period when the society was largely open, and then compares that with the period when schools and society were largely closed down.
“During November and December, it may be that we’ll have a period of society being largely closed down, but schools remain open.
“If that’s the case, then as this data becomes available, we will rerun our analysis to see if anything is different.”
The findings come after another recent study involving 300,000 Scottish healthcare workers and their households indicated that sharing a household with school-aged children does not place the adults with whom they live at greater risk of Covid-19.