There are 2 types of fathers in the universe: ones who care about how their kids are doing, and ones like Darth Vader, who slice their kids’ arms off in epic lightsaber battles. Fortunately for your kid, you’re the former. Unfortunately for you, that is slowly sapping you of your life force — so says a study due out next month in the journal Health Psychology.
Researchers tested the blood of 247 pairs of parents and their kids to measure interleukin markers, which regulate inflammatory response. The parents completed empathy, well-being, and self-esteem questionnaires, and filled out reports on their kid’s emotional regulation. Then the kids kept their own 2-week diary on their emotional well being. The kids with more empathetic parents self-reported better emotional control and more positive assessments of their lives in general. Their parents were rewarded with more self esteem, a stronger sense of overall purpose in life and … high levels of inflammatory cytokines. Those cause fever, inflammation, tissue destruction, and, in some extreme lab cases, shock and death; not to mention arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and bloated ankles. But, hey, everything in life is trade-offs, right?
According to the study’s lead author, the explanation for this cruel biochemical joke may have something to do with parents forgoing sleep, exercise, and other “me”-focused behaviors that might lower your levels of stress. “It’s not selfish for parents to make time for these things,” the study’s lead author told Quartz. “It’s actually critical for their own mental and physical health.” Keep it in mind, because everyone knows Darth Vader didn’t cross over to the Dark Side until he quit taking care of himself.