In Brazil, Father’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of August. On this day, it’s common to see crowded stores, family reunions and gift shopping. But most children give a much more valuable gift to their fathers: health.
Many studies have demonstrated that, in general, men do not take good care of their health. Compared with women, men do not eat properly and do not exercise enough, and they also smoke more and go to the doctor less, according to the National Survey by Household Sample of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) and the Health, Welfare and Aging Survey of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). As a result, men have more health problems and shorter life expectancy.
Some studies have demonstrated that children can play a crucial role in their fathers' health. Having children brings a lot of change to the lives of everyone around them, and because of them it’s common for parents to rethink the future – from financial planning to questions regarding their own health. “The simple fact of having children makes you think more about how you behave so you can be there for them until they learn how to walk with their own feet,” says Luciano Paladini, medical analyst, Evidências - Kantar Health. “Besides, today a lot of information is just a click away for even the youngest kids, and thus our children are often aware of healthy and unhealthy habits, such as driving while talking on the phone, smoking, high-fat diet, and so on... And they can be very ‘nagging’ in this respect.”
Setting a good example can help the child to develop healthier habits and can bond fathers with their kids, receiving affection when they remember to perform regular checkups, take care of their health or exercise. “It is scientifically proven, for example, in relation to smoking: parents who smoke are more likely to have a child who also smokes in adolescence or young adulthood. For me, this goes for all habits: smoking, diet, physical activity... The point is that the affinities of the parents are not necessarily the same of the children, and we have to be careful to not force them to follow a pattern that can, later, make them feel repulsed,” Paladini says.
In 2009, the Brazilian Ministry of Health created the National Men's Health Policy to highlight the number of male deaths related to bad habits. In addition, some states promote “Blue August,” taking this opportunity to perform actions for care and information regarding men’s health. According to the Ministry of Heath, men live a mean of seven years less than women, and they are more likely to have heart disease, cancer and diabetes and higher cholesterol and blood pressure.
Being a father is not only to teach but also to learn from those who want to have you around more: your children. “Setting an example is key; in the end these healthy habits lead to being able to perform more demanding tasks (even mentally). Your child may not understand it very well at first, but he/she will certainly thank you when he/she gets to 40,” Paladini says.