My kids are going to kill me. I just know it. I've spent the last 10 days with them. No school, daycare or summer camp. In short, I was on vacation--and they were on vacation with me.
Don't get me wrong--I love my kids. But two days in the car and eight days in a small beach condo listening to them bicker over who gets to play Mario on the Nintendo DS can really raise my blood pressure.
But it also got me wondering: Does having kids extend or shorten a man's life expectancy?
Apparently, the scientific record is a bit thin on the impact of fatherhood on life expectancy. For example, we know something about its effect on the lifespan of our kids. Children whose parents live long lives tend to live long lives themselves.
We also know it may be a component in long-lived men. A 2007 study of centenarians suggested men who are trim (not me), were raised on a farm (nope) and have four or more children (thank the maker, no!) are more likely to reach 100 than their counterparts.
But that study didn't really tell us anything about the relationship between a father, his children and his life expectancy. For example, did the fathers live with their kids? Did they take long horse and buggy rides with the kids bickering over who got to play with the cornsilk doll?
Another study suggests men who continue to produce offspring into their 50s, 60s and 70s with much younger women may help their offspring live longer lives, but, sadly, it doesn't seem to help the fathers stay alive. As my wife points out, we can't all be Hugh Heffner or Charlie Chaplin--especially me.
In fact, what we don't know about the impact of fatherhood on longevity is staggering, especially since we know so much about the effect of motherhood on longevity.
Women, for example, who conceived children naturally in their 40s and 50s tend to live longer than women who have children earlier; lifespan increases with more children; and mothers tend to reap extra years by being grandmothers that men do not get by being grandfathers.
But with Father's Day on the horizon, I'm not sure a definitive study showing that being a father lengthens a man's life is all that important--at least to me. Even if being a father doubled a man's chances of living to 100, I doubt I'll live longer. There are other factors--like diabetes and family history--that are far more likely to impact my lifespan.
As my father told me when he was reminiscing about raising my brothers and me, it's not the quantity of life you live, but the quality of life. I may not live longer because I'm a father, but because of my children, the life I live will be better.
In short, my kids might kill me--or make me live longer. Either way, I'm going to die with a smile on my face.
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