Living with children is not linked to a greater risk of severe coronavirus in adults, a study has found.
It looked at data on nine million adults under 65 between February and August, comparing the risks to those living with and without children.
Sharing a house with under-18s did not increase the risk of getting seriously ill or dying from Covid.
A scientists who worked on the study said it showed “no net harm in kids coming back to the house from school”.
The researchers, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of Oxford, found adults living with very young or primary-school-age children had no increased risk of Covid-19 infection or a related hospital admission.
In fact, they were about 25% less likely to die of Covid-19 than people living without children, which the researchers think may be linked to healthier living habits previously identified in those who care for children.
People living with secondary-school-age children had a very small (8%) increased risk of a Covid-19 infection, but no increased risk of hospitalisation..
They were 27% less likely to die from the disease, again perhaps because they tend to be healthier than adults of the same age without children.
The study, which has not yet been published in a journal, looked at what happened between February and August and so straddled the period when schools were fully open as well as the time after 20 March when they were closed to all but a few children.
It also spanned the summer holidays, though not the reopening of schools in September.
Researchers also took into account other factors such as smoking, socioeconomic deprivation, ethnicity and chronic health problems.
‘No net harm’
Liam Smeeth, professor of clinical epidemiology at LSHTM who worked on the study, said: “We know that people who live with kids are generally more healthy and have a slightly lower risk of dying of anything.
“And we see a very similar pattern for bad Covid outcomes such as hospitalisation and death. So there’s no net harm in kids coming back to the house from school.”
He added: “Many would agree if we can keep schools open, that’s really important for this generation of young people, and this study contributes one part of that equation: that there’s no net harmful effect to living with children.”
Dr Ben Goldacre, director of the DataLab at the University of Oxford and who also worked on the study, said the team would continue to analyse data during the second lockdown, under which many areas of society were closed but schools remained open.
“It’s important we get data insights on these policy interventions as soon as we possibly can, because the story of Covid is that we are learning ‘live’ as it harms people around us,” he said.
Dr David McAllister, a public health lecturer at the University of Glasgow who has carried out similar research, said this showed that “sharing a household with school-aged children does not place the adults with whom they live at greater risk”.