Becoming a dad before the age of 25 increases the risk of dying early in middle age than those who delay having children, a recent Finnish study has warned. The evidence suggests that men who father a child in early life have poorer health and a greater risk of early death than men who delay fatherhood.

Lead researcher Dr Elina Einio  from the University of Helsinki, Finland, said that men who father a child in early life have poorer health and die earlier than men who delay fatherhood, but family environment, early socioeconomic circumstances and genes are thought to explain this association.

“The findings provide evidence of a need to support young fathers struggling with the demands of family life in order to promote good health behaviours and future health,” the authors noted in the study published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

“Promotion of good health behaviours in young fathers could also support healthy behaviour in their children.”

The study involved more than 30,500 Finnish men born between 1940 and 1950, who became fathers by the age of 45. The dads were tracked from the age of 45 until death or age 54, using mortality data for 1985-2005.

Around 15 per cent of this sample had fathered their first child by the age of 22; 29 per cent at ages 22-24; 18 per cent when they were 25-26; 19 per cent between the ages of 27 and 29; and 19 per cent between the ages of 30 and 44.

The average age at which a man became a dad was 25-26, and men in this age bracket were used as a reference.

The study took account of factors, such as educational attainment and region of residence, which are linked to timing of first parenthood; and marital status and number of children, both of which are linked to long term health.

During the 10 year monitoring period around 1 in 20 of the dads died. The primary causes of death were ischaemic heart disease (21 per cent) and diseases related to excess alcohol (16 per cent).

Men who were dads by the time they were 22, had a 26 per cent higher risk of death in mid-life than those who had fathered their first child when they were 25 or 26.

Similarly, men who had their first child between the ages of 22 and 24 had a 14 per cent higher risk of dying in middle age.

Those who became dads between the ages of 30 and 44 had a 25 per cent lower risk of death in middle age than those who fathered their first child at 25 or 26

In a subsidiary sample of 1,124 siblings, brothers who had become dads by the age of 22 were 73 per cent more likely to die early than their siblings who had fathered their first child at the age of 25 or 26.

Similarly, those who entered parenthood at 22-24 were 63 per cent more likely to die middle aged.

“The findings of our study suggest that the association between young fatherhood and mid life mortality is likely to be causal,” researchers wrote in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Experts believe the premature deaths could be down to the combined stress of being a father, partner and breadwinner at a young age.

Photo credit: Being Healthy is Beautiful via photopin (license)