A large family can come with a lot of downsides, especially when you're at the head of a household that seems to be going in different directions. A new study suggests parents who have more kids when their older may be cutting years off of their lives.

Researchers at The University of Gothenberg used modern genetic techniques to study the ageing process in barnacle geese, a species of bird with one of the longest lifetimes. The team says they have found a direct correlation between reproduction and lifespan.

The key to understanding this connection: Telomeres, the protective caps at the end of linear chromosomes. The length of someone's telomeres is believed to show how long they will live.

One of the researchers involved with this study, Angela Pauliny, said: "This is important, not least for our own species, as we are all having to deal with increased stress."

The geese used in the study ranged from birds in their adolescents to birds in their final stages of life with the oldest being 22. Each goose had their telomeres measured on two different occasions with a two year gap in between.

By the end of the study researchers found that barnacle geese can preserve the length of their telomeres a lot better than species of bird that tend to live shorter lives. The team believes this is a result of longer-lived species putting less effort into reproduction and more time into keeping their bodily functions healthy.

Pauliny added, "There is a clear correlation between reproduction and ageing in the animal world. Take elephants, which have a long lifespan but few offspring, while mice, for example, live for a short time but produce a lot of offspring each time they try."

To the surprise of the research team, there were some noted differences between the development of telomeres and gender. While males tended to preserve the length of their telomeres for a longer time, female's telomeres shortened in length at a rapid pace.