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Turns Out, Being a Dad is Good for You

There's extensive research highlighting the benefits involved dads have on child development. Now, a growing body of evidence outlines the positives of having a baby.

Dr. Daniel Koos, his wife Stephanie and their five children

Children change everything. Suddenly, you have another life to look after — a miniature version of yourself to care and provide for. Despite the added stress and sleepless nights that come along with fatherhood, it's an emotionally rewarding role that gives many men purpose.

It comes with some health perks too. Becoming a dad makes you look in the mirror and face your own health because you want to model good behavior and be around to see your little guy or girl grow up.

Research backs it up. The health benefits of having kids are clear.

You ditch the bad habits like smoking and drinking.

Babies don't know if you smoke or drink and whether that's good or bad. But their mere presence can change your lifestyle for the better. Secondhand smoke is damaging for everyone, but especially babies. It can cause respiratory problems and increase their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Many new dads quit smoking for the sake of their baby's health. They also cut back on the alcohol.

And you pick up good ones.

Quitting smoking and drinking in moderation are boosts to your health. They aren't the only healthy behaviors dads display. Fathers are more physically fit, have lower rates of substance abuse and demonstrate less risky behavior. They're more likely to prioritize exercise in their busy schedules and eat healthy meals with the family instead of a bag of fast food.

You actually start going to the doctor.

Men are notorious for avoiding the doctor. The newfound focus on health brought on by fatherhood finally gives many men a reason to visit their primary care physician. When you're shuttling a baby to an appointment every few weeks, suddenly getting your own check-up sounds like a good idea. Establishing a relationship with your doctor leads to better overall health. You're more likely to get recommended screenings and make an appointment when something ails you.

Your mental health improves.

They don't call them little bundles of joy for nothing. Having a child can boost your mood and lower your stress. A long-term study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that having a good relationship with your kids makes you less prone to the common health problems associated with stress.

One in 10 dads suffers from postpartum depression, much like moms, and is a growing concern for new fathers. But overall, fatherhood brings mental health benefits. Dads have higher self-esteem, more optimism, enhanced personal satisfaction and fewer mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.

You have a better work-life balance.

The benefits of having children extend to the workplace. Knowing there's a child eagerly waiting to see you at the end of the day reduces work-related stress and makes you better at dealing with it. This improves your well-being as well as your performance, according to a study from the Academy of Management.

Dads who engage in activities with their kids, feel more satisfied with their lives and have a stronger connection to their families. They're also happier with their jobs, have less work-related conflict and are less likely to consider quitting.

Your social life gets better.

Contrary to popular belief, having kids isn't the end of your social life. Dads actually do more socializing. While you may not see the guys quite as much, you make new connections through your child's activities and events. You spend more time with family — parents, in-laws, siblings, cousins — neighbors and other parents.

It seems that most engaged fathers say they wouldn't trade their parenting role for anything, despite the added responsibilities and stressors.

And now, the medical evidence says they're healthier for it too.

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