A young parent would have more energy to keep up with a toddler, while an older dad might have the wisdom and the maturity to handle all the responsibilities that come with fatherhood. So which is it?
New research published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health suggests that becoming a dad before age 25 poses serious health risks to men compared to those who delay fatherhood until they hit 30 to 44 years old. Men who become dads early are also more likely to have poor health and die younger than men who experience fatherhood late in life.
The study looked at more than 30,000 fathers from Finland born from 1940 to 1950 who became fathers at 45. They found that men who became dads at 22 years old had a 26 percent greater risk of dying midlife versus those who became fathers at age 25 or 26. Men who became fathers between 30 and 44 years old had a 25 percent lower risk of dying an untimely death compared to men who became dads at age 25 or 26. Researchers also considered factors such as the men’s level of education, geographic location, marital status, and number of children.
Lead study author Elina Einiö, who is also a researcher at the population unit at the University of Helsinki, explains, “Suddenly taking on the combined role of father and breadwinner may have caused considerable psychological and economic stress for a young man. Parenting at a young age can be challenging, and it is important that young fathers invest in their own well-being." Lifestyle factors, such as the men's drinking or smoking habits, may also come into play. The ages 30 to 40 appear to be the ideal age for men to produce an offspring, says Gordon E. Finley, psychology professor emeritus at the Florida International University. That age range may still vary, as it would still depend on their emotional and financial stability.
While the study doesn’t directly say that fatherhood can lead to an early death, it only proves that even dads who are struggling with the demands of family life and modern parenting also need support as much as moms do. Nowadays, fathers are expected to not just bring home the bacon, but also to nurture a unique bond with their kids. Parenting resource speaker Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S.J. explains, “The youth today yearn for more emotional closeness with their dads. They also want tangible and credible male models for living, as well as real moral and spiritual leadership from their dads.“