I’ll be in Jersey Shore on Father’s Day. Maria and I will share the weekend with my sons, Anthony and Stephen, grandson Luca and daughter-in-law Colleen. We will have dinner on Sunday evening and, if the weather permits, we will spend time on the beach. If I’m really lucky, I might even hang out with Luca at the slot machines.
As readers of my articles know, I cherish the role of a dad and work to maximize the value that fatherhood brings me. I’ve bombarded you with tales of father and son trips, nightly dinners for the boys, and the fun Luka brings. They are my strongest motivators, inspiration for a healthy lifestyle. The prospect of participating in such family milestones in the coming years fuels a fire that makes me get up and go to the gym in the morning.
Now, knowing how much fatherhood means to me and how it affects my passion for a healthy lifestyle, I asked myself one simple question: is fatherhood good for a man’s health?
While I presented the science of the positive effects of marriage, documented the power of our social relationships to motivate behavior, and discussed how intergenerational relationships can stimulate male well-being, I was still interested in what the experts thought. Do fathers have an advantage in a healthy lifestyle? And if so, what does it look like?
Gerontological Society of America says it is “well established that the quality of intergenerational relationships is critical to the well-being of both generations.” The society also notes that “grandparents’ relationships with their grandchildren tend to be associated with higher well-being for both grandparents and grandchildren.” Okay, the impact on well-being is a good start and a step in the right direction, but let’s go ahead and look at fathers over 50 who have adult children.
British Society of Psychology agrees with the assumption that social relationships are an essential part of optimizing the aging process and emphasizes the role that adult children play in supporting older people. Society suggests that the support parents give and receive can have a positive impact on their physical and psychological health, and research shows positive effects of these relationships on “mortality, heart attack survival, cognitive decline, depression, and anxiety.” Now there are some specific benefits.
Finally, Journal of Men’s Health and Gender says that “most of the evidence suggests that fatherhood itself can be beneficial to a man’s health.” The British Journal focuses on age breakdown and health status and claims that men between the ages of 41 and 64 showed better health than younger men. As many dads know, when we first become parents, parenthood can be stressful and lead to poor health. As we develop competence in parenting, this stress may lessen. As children become adults, experiences can change and, as I said, create motivating relationships that can inspire healthy practice.
Offers a different point of view World health, a non-profit healthcare system. The organization suggests that children can inspire fathers to healthy behavior because fathers see children watching their behavior. When they realize that they are leading by example, they give up bad habits and improve their behavior. In my experience, this role modeling continues as children become adults and may even extend to grandchildren.
And as for the “why” of fatherhood’s impact on men’s health, Storage healtha New York-based organization that specializes in consumer health, community health, and clinical trials claims that fatherhood can have a positive impact on a man’s lifestyle because it induces behavioral changes that reduce risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and reckless driving. – all this can positively affect the physical health of men.
Now, for the record, the men’s health literature shows that there is a downside to fatherhood – lower testosterone levels. It seems to be a natural phenomenon that occurs in young fathers, caused by Mother Nature.
In short, the reduction seems to be due to the natural need for men to focus on caring for their new baby, rather than instinctively looking for partners. For older men with older children, a healthy lifestyle can promote testosterone production as a means of compensating for the natural decline we experience.
For my younger brothers, the drop in testosterone at your age is no reason to forego children. Any man with more than one, like me, can testify to the ability to overcome this phenomenon after the birth of his first child.
It is no coincidence that June is considered the month of men’s health. Father’s Day emphasizes all aspects of masculinity and, in particular, fatherhood. Given men’s historical distaste for their health issues, it’s only fitting that men’s health advocates use this holiday to draw attention to men’s needs.
At the heart of my men’s health advocacy, like so many others, is what I call the end game, a reason to pay attention to your health. As men, if our children, grandchildren, and our families do not motivate us to take care of our health, then we are truly hopeless. Conversely, if your emotional connections can motivate you to get off the couch and become more active, then you have connected the dots and laid the foundation for longevity, satisfaction, and happiness.
This Father’s Day, be grateful for your fatherhood – whether you’re a father, a stepfather, a foster parent, or someone who acts as a father. Celebrate paternity in any way you can and adopt a healthy lifestyle that will keep you going for years to come. This is a great way to make this holiday the best it can be.
Louis Besich, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Cooper University Health Care, is the author of “Crack the code: 10 proven secrets that motivate healthy behavior and inspire men over 50 to fulfill themselves.” Learn more from Louie on his Web site.