Admittedly, I always assumed that dads were more likely to die of a heart attack, or at least a stroke. All of the stress, sleepless nights, constant activity, worrying; these are the things they tell heart patients to avoid! Yet, a massive new study compiled by the AARP, the federal government and a number of universities, says that dads are 17% less likely to die of cardiovascular complications than childless men. The study, which followed 138,00 men of all different ages and backgrounds, was largely correlational. That means that although the data seemed to show some parallels, there's no way to prove that actually having children is what caused fewer men to succumb to heart disease. That said, there are a number of physicians and heart specialists that say there's good reason to think that it does.
For one, the simple genetics of reproductions may be predictive of a man's health later in life. One has to have pretty healthy genetic material in order to reproduce, and according to a Stanford urologist and the leader on the study's team, for men that can't reproduce, "Maybe it's telling us that something else is involved in their inability to have kids." Infertility could mean a genetic weakness that might manifest in heart problems down the road. This according to The Huffington Post. In addition, there are lifestyle implications. it's already been established in many studies that positive interaction has life sustaining qualities, whether with a loved one, a child, or a pet. In addition, many fathers enjoy a higher level of care later in life largely because of the support and involvement of their children. Finally, child rearing notably lowers a man's testosterone levels, a male hormone that has been linked to heart disease.
I suppose there are still plenty of health ailments out there that might even be exacerbated by having children, but heart disease is one of the leading killers of men in the US, and it's nice to know that something I've been doing anyway will help my chances. Of course, if one wasn't planning on being a dad in the first place, this study doesn't exactly make a powerful case for starting. As Daniel Rader, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said: "It's biologically plausible that there's a connection," but it "is pretty modest." Of men that are looking to lower their chances of heart disease, "I'm not really prepared to, on the basis of this, tell them to start having a few kids," Rader said.