The unexpected rewards of fatherhood.
Fatherhood comes with many rewards and, it must be said, responsibilities. Curiously, and unexpectedly, in some ways, it also seems to come with a biological reward: better health. A very large study of 138,000 men by the AARP, concluded that men who had fathered children, were 17% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease than men who had never done so.
Rather unflatteringly, researchers compared this health effect, to the benefits of owning a dog. Both share in common a simple mechanism: caring for another. It seems that having someone to care about may bring blessings, other than the immediate rewards that come with expressing such care.
The research did not express any conclusions on whether this effect depended on the number of children in anyway, but was expressed in terms of childless or not childless.
Of course, this effect may be no more than another effect altogether: the ill health that might cause a man to be infertile. So, what we might be seeing here, might not be a positive effect of fatherhood, at all, but a negative effect of the inability to father a child. Either way, it does suggest that, in this narrow respect, fathers are healthier than non-fathers. I find it interesting, for it does suggest some kind of positive selection process for better health in the reproductive system itself. Perhaps evolution hasn’t come to as much of a halt, as many people seem to believe (in truth it is, if anything, faster than before, due to new selection processes at work...not all of them beneficial).
Anyway, this research cheered me a little. As the father of three sons, perhaps they bring me another kind of reward, other than the obvious ones inherent in parenting. If so, thank you to my Three Musketeers! (and to my wife for providing them.)
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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