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NEW YORK CITY — If you dads can survive 3 a.m. feedings, the troubled teen years and the pressures of providing for a family, you may actually reap important health benefits from fatherhood.
Psychologist and father of two girls Dr. Scott Bea says even though men don't automatically reap the same physical benefits of parenthood that women do, including lowered risks for heart disease and some cancers, they can benefit physically and emotionally.
"We are more active in our lives, we have generally better health, better coping strategies and experience less frequent bouts of clinical depression," he explains.
Increased physical activity is a major component of the health benefit of fatherhood. Think of little league coaching, backyard baseball or even wrestling on the living room floor.
Having a 1-year-old jump up and down or smile at you when you walk through the door is the surest way to forget the stress of your work day.
–Professor Brad Harrington
"Not only is that good for you physically, but it keeps you kind of joyful. For us fathers, it allows us to be a kid again," Dr. Bea explains.
And there's nothing like a kid to help boost mood.
"Having a 1-year-old jump up and down or smile at you when you walk through the door is the surest way to forget the stress of your work day," points out Professor Brad Harrington.
Harrington, a father of three, makes a living studying fathers at the Boston College Center for Work & Family. His recent survey of stay-at-home dads showed the men have an incredibly strong bond with their children.
"It's a sense of connection that the vast majority of fathers never get to experience to the level that these stay-at-home dads do," he says.
The rewards of fatherhood extend, of course, beyond biology to step and adoptive dads as well.