Having kids too young is really stressful. Stress is really bad for you. Ergo, having kids too young is really bad for you. And now, science can back it up.
Scientists at the University of Helsinki studied more than 30,000 dads over ten years, monitoring them between the ages of 45 and 54. Results showed that men who have kids before they’re 22 have a 26% higher chance of dying in middle age. Among men who had kids between 22 and 24, there was a 14% higher chance of dying in middle age. Between 30 and 44? Those dads had a 25% better chance of surviving compared to their peers who had kids in the average window, between 25 and 29.
If you think this might be the result of other factors linked to having kids early—like lower income or less education—consider this: When the researchers looked at 1124 siblings, men who had kids before 22 were 73% more likely to die young than their brothers, who had otherwise similar demographic profiles. Those who became dads between 22 and 24 fared only 10% better.
The cause of many of these early deaths? Stress-related problems like heart disease and alcohol abuse. The findings come in the wake of a study showing that men’s BMIs increased after having kids.
Finding time for physiological and mental health as a young parent can be difficult given the relatively unstable relationships between young couples, the financial pressures of those first few jobs, and limited free time to hang out with your kid. (Which is super important, by the way—according to the American Psychological Association, spending just an hour a week with your kid literally makes their brain bigger.)
Bottom line? If you want to start a family, make sure you have a plan. Duh.