New findings by researchers in Helsinki Finland, men who become fathers before the age of 25 are more likely to die in middle age.
Finnish researchers looked at over 30,000 men who were born between 1940 and 1950. All became fathers before the age of 45. They were then tracked from the age of 45 for a 10-year period, using mortality data from 1985 to 2005.
The study found that 15% of the participants had become fathers by the age of 22, 29% had become fathers between the ages of 22 and 24, 18% had become fathers between the ages of 25 and 26, 19% had become fathers between the ages of 27 and 29 and the rest were 30 or older.
The researchers took into account important factors, such as where the men lived, their education levels and their marital status.
Around one in 20 of the men died during the monitoring period. The main causes of death were heart disease (21%) and alcohol-related diseases (16%).
The study found that men who had become fathers by the age of 22 had a 26% increased risk of dying in middle age compared to those who had become fathers at 25 or 26.
Men who had become fathers between the ages of 22 and 24 also had a 14% increased risk of early death.
Meanwhile, those who had become fathers between the ages of 30 and 44 had a 25% reduced risk of dying when middle aged compared to those who became fathers at 25 or 26.
In a further sample of over 1,100 siblings, the researchers found that men who had become fathers by the age of 22 were 73% more likely to die early than their brothers who had become fathers for the first time at ages 25 or 26.
These results stood even when other factors were taken into account such as shared early life experiences, education and marital status.
“The findings of our study suggest that the association between young fatherhood and mid-life mortality is likely to be causal. The association was not explained by early life characteristics shared by brothers, or by certain adult characteristics known to be associated both with fertility timing and mortality,” the researchers from the University of Helsinki said.
They suggested that while becoming a young parent is generally viewed as being less disruptive for men than women, having to take on the combined role of partner, father and breadwinner may lead to major psychological and financial stress among men.
“The findings of our study 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 promotion of good health behaviours in young fathers could also support healthy behaviour in their children,” the researchers added.
Details of these findings are published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.