There are plenty of personal reasons to start a family, but no real medical reasons, until now. Researchers recently revealed that having children decreases a man’s risk of cardiovascular disease. The study was initially started to investigate the connection between how many children a man had and his long-term health, but researchers found something they weren’t looking for. 

More than 135,000 men in the American Association of Retired Persons took place in the study. The men in the study were followed for 10 years in an attempt to link parenting to health. Researchers found that men who had no children were more likely to suffer from heart disease than men who had children. Researchers noted that infertility problems were not taken into consideration and thus the connection may be associated with the cause of infertility and not parenthood. 

Michael Einsenberg, the lead author of the study, took great care in excluding any possible participant with a history or lifestyle that could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Men who smoked and consumed alcohol were excluded. If there was a history of heart problems or the participant was overweight or obese, he was also excluded. What was left was a pool of men in generally good health who were married or had been married during reproductive years. 

Men without children were 17% more likely to suffer heart disease than men with children. Researchers did not find a connection between the gender of the child and health outcomes. About 70 different cases of death were noted, not just heart disease. Men without children had a higher overall rate of death during the study, but when heart disease was taken out of the equation, the two groups were statistically similar. 

Further research is needed to fine-tune the study findings. Does testosterone play a role in heart disease? Are fathers more likely to live healthier lives and thus live longer? 

Source: Michael L. Eisenberg, Yikyung Park, Albert R. Hollenbeck, Larry I. Lipshultz, Arthur Schatzkin, and Mark J. Pletcher. Human Reproduction. 5 October 2011.