The younger men are when they become fathers, the more likely they are to die by their 40s or 50s, according to a large new study out of Finland. Researchers say they've seen this link before, but wanted to test it using brothers who share similar DNA to better control for genetic and environmental differences, reports LiveScience. So they looked at 30,500 men born between 1940 and 1950 in Finland, all of whom became fathers before age 45, and then tracked these fathers until they reached 54. Among these dads, 15% had their first child by age 22, 29% between ages 22 and 24, 18% at ages 25 or 26, and 38% at age 27 or older. Reporting in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the researchers say that the older men are when they father their first child, the less likely they are to die in middle age.
In fact, those who had their first child by age 22 were 26% more likely to die in middle age than those who had kids at 25 or 26, while men who fathered their first child between 30 and 45 were 25% less likely to die in middle age than those who were 25 or 26. The researchers also followed 1,124 of the men's brothers, and the link held. In fact, those who fathered their first kid by age 22 were 73% more likely to die during middle age than the brothers who had their firstborn at age 25 or 26—regardless of early life circumstances, education, marital status, region of residence, or number of kids. Thus this "association between young fatherhood and midlife mortality is likely to be causal," they write. The cause has yet to be nailed down, but they surmise that early fatherhood may result in lower education levels, and thus lower-paying jobs, and thus less access to health care. (Check out how old these Hollywood actors were when they fathered kids.)