How does fatherhood impact the lives of men? A new study from the University of Helsinki suggests timing is everything. Men who have a first-born child before the age of 25 have a higher risk of dying in mid-life than men who become dads at a later age, the data indicated.

To investigate the impact of early fatherhood, the researchers used Finnish Census records and linked information on mortality and fertility. The researchers studied men born between 1940 and 1950 in order to reconstruct the timing of fatherhood. Of the 30,565 fathers, 15 percent fathered a first child by age 22 and 29 percent between age 22 and 24. Nearly 18 percent had a firstborn between ages 25 and 26, while 19 percent had their first between ages 27 and 29. Finally, 19 percent had their first between the ages of 30 and 44. Men who had a firstborn after age 45 were excluded from the analysis.

Of the total 30,565 fathers, about 38 percent were identified as having brothers. The researchers created a model on this subsample of 11,743 brothers and tracked these dads through the alleyways of data from the age of 45 until death or age 54.

During that decade-long period, roughly one in every 20 of these men died. Major causes of death were ischemic heart disease (21 percent) and alcohol-related diseases (16 percent). How, though, did this relate to the timing of fatherhood in their lives.

Crunching the numbers, the researchers found men who became dads by the time they were 22 had a 26 percent higher risk of mid-life death than those who had fathered their first child at either 25 or 26. Similarly, men who had their first child between the ages of 22 and 24 had a 14 percent higher risk of middle-aged death. Men who became dads between the ages of 30 and 44, by comparison, had a 25 percent lower risk of mid-life death than those who fathered their first child at 25 or 26.

“The findings of our study suggest that the association between young fatherhood and mid life mortality is likely to be causal,” concluded the researchers. “It is possible that fathering a child early in life caused accumulated psychological, social and economic stress in balancing the roles of a father, husband and breadwinner.”

Source: Einio E, Nisen J, Martikainen P. Is young fatherhood causally related to midlife mortality? A sibling fixed-effect study in Finland. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 2015.