The heartache of stay-at-home dad

Research shows alarming global rise in heart disease among men forced to take up role of caring for households

Heart disease is rising amongst stay-at-home fathers
Heart disease is rising amongst stay-at-home fathers
Image: Getty Images

As more dads find themselves unemployed due to SA’s economic climate, international research findings have revealed that heart disease is on the rise among stay-at-home dads in the country.

Pharma-Dynamics spokesperson Nicole Jennings said the increased risk of heart disease was a health matter worth shining the light on during this heart awareness month.

“Experts acknowledge that it’s a growing trend,” she said.

Jennings said heart disease claimed the lives of 25,961 men in the country each year.

“Heart disease among particularly stay-at-home dads is becoming a growing phenomenon globally and in SA. While some men dream of leaving their stressful jobs for the supposedly ‘simpler’ life of a stay-at-home dad, researchers warn that making the switch could have dangerous implications for a man’s heart.”

She said the research was conducted by the US National Institutes for Health to identify the impact a person’s profession had on their health.

She said these findings were further corroborated by another US study which confirmed that men whose wives were the primary breadwinners, were more likely to suffer from conditions such as stomach ulcers and heart disease.

Jennings pointed out the increased risk of these conditions was related to the social and identity struggles men experienced as a result of no longer being the primary breadwinners.

She said SA had faced a wave of retrenchments since 2008 with an estimated 83,000 jobs lost in the past year alone. This was forcing more dads to involuntarily take up the role of caring for the household.

“Stay-at-home dads may look to smoking, drinking and eating unhealthily to help them deal with their dented masculinity, which over time increases their risk of heart disease, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases.

“When their role as primary breadwinner is taken away, their confidence and psyche take a knock, which could lead to unhealthy dependencies and physical illness. Stigmatisation by peers, family members and even spouses or children can also take a toll on a man’s sense of self and masculinity. These stressors all have negative implications for men’s hearts,” she said.

Jennings added conversations around the shift from providing to staying at home needed to be talked about more, in order for the stigmatisation attached to it to subside.

“In a country such as ours, the shift towards stay-at-home dads hasn’t quite been accepted by the norm and men are likely to be confronted by sexist remarks and isolation.”