Do More Kids Make Dad Healthier?

As the youngest of six and father of two (so far), I'm a fan of most things that promote having more children. It's a rare message in our country today. With our ever more uncertain economic future, these days more couples are deciding to have either no children or waiting until they are older to have maybe one. But this past month research came out suggesting that men who love their heart may want to consider having multiple kids.

A new study says that men who have either no children or only one are much more likely to develop heart disease compared to fathers with a full quiver of offspring. Researchers studied nearly 138,000 married or once-married men over 50 years of age. Their research covered more than ten years and discovered some alarming numbers. The men who never fathered children were 17% more likely to die from heart disease compared to fathers of multiple children and 13% more likely to die from cardiovascular problems than men who had sired only one child.

The main researcher, Dr. Michael Eisenberg, made it clear that more research is necessary to see obvious direct connections of number of kids and heart disease. However, the researchers were careful to take into account other heart risk factors like smoking or body mass index. Eisenberg isn't sure why fathers of two or more have healthier hearts, but the numbers don't lie.

Eisenberg's two main theories for his findings are worlds apart. One possibility links heart disease to infertility. In fact, Eisenberg and his team specialize in infertility research and they did the study hoping to find a connection between infertility and men's overall health. Eisenberg said,

A lot of times when we see men for infertility, they’re very young. A lot of these men are totally healthy. It’s sort of eye-opening to hear there could be something else going on.

However, this particular study did not supply figures on how many of the fatherless men were infertile and how many simply avoided procreation. In other words, the study gives no clear proof that fertility has anything to do with heart disease. Of course, some in the media jumped all over a big story linking low sperm count to chest pains. MSNBC, for example, began their story: "Dads are less likely to die of heart disease than men who’ve never had kids, a study out Monday found, raising new questions about a possible biological link between male infertility and overall health."

The media speculation notwithstanding, even Eisenberg readily admitted there might be more to the research besides the infertility link.

There may be more than just a biologic reason. ... Maybe having children causes men to have healthier behaviors, so fathers will live longer.