First-time dads in their early 20s may have the energy and agility to keep up with their young children, but a new study shows early fatherhood can pose perils later in life.
Research by Finnish researchers showed that becoming a father before the age of 25 is linked to a higher chance of dying in middle age.
"Men who have a child before the age of 22 have a very clear higher midlife mortality than men who have children later, at an average age of 25 to 26," said Dr. Elina Einio of the University of Helsinki.
Although the study did not look into the possible causes of the higher risk of death for young fathers, Einio suggests that unplanned pregnancy, early marriage and the psychological and economic stress of fatherhood could play a part.
"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 behaviors and future health," said Einio, who reported the findings in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
While other studies have focused of the impact of young parenthood on women, Einio and her team analyzed data on more than 30,500 men born in Finland between 1940 and 1950.
About 15 percent had their first child by age 22, nearly 30 percent became dads by 24, and less than 20 percent in each of the 25-through-26, 27-through-29 and 30-through-44 age groups.
About one in 20 of the men died during a 10-year monitoring period, mainly from heart disease and illnesses related to excessive drinking.
The researchers found that men who were fathers by the age of 22 had a 26 percent higher risk of dying in middle age than first-time dads who were 25 or 26 years old.
Young fathers also had a 14 percent higher risk of dying in middle age than older first-time dads. Men who became fathers between 30 and 44 had a 25 percent reduced risk of an earlier death than young dads at 25 or 26.
In a smaller study of 1,124 siblings, the researchers found similar results. Men who were fathers by 22 were 73 percent more likely to die early than their brothers who became dads at 25 or 26.