Paternity Leave For Dads Linked To Reduced Alcohol Abuse Risk: New Study



Welcoming a new baby can be overwhelming, but a study from Sweden suggests that paternity leave for dads is linked to them being less likely to suffer from alcohol abuse.

The transition to parenthood can be daunting, with late-night feedings, constant crying, and sleepless nights. For some new fathers, the stress has led to excessive drinking.

In Sweden, where paid parental leave has been available since 1974, the proportion of fathers taking time off has increased from 1% to 30%. In 1995, when Swedish fathers were granted 30 days of paid leave, the percentage taking advantage of it spiked to 75%, leading to improvements in their mental health.

Today, parents in Sweden can take up to 480 days of job-protected paid leave, with 390 days reimbursed at around 80% of their income. This generous leave policy appears to have positive effects on new fathers.

In contrast, the United States lacks federal laws guaranteeing paid parental leave. While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees, it falls short of Sweden’s benefits.

A recent study from Stockholm University’s Department of Public Health Sciences reveals a significant benefit for new fathers in Sweden who take paternity leave: a 34% decrease in alcohol-related hospitalizations in the two years after their child’s birth, with continued reductions up to 18 years later.

The study suggests that job-protected and adequately reimbursed parental leave offers fathers a respite during the challenging transition to parenthood, reducing behaviors like excessive alcohol consumption. Additionally, fathers who spend more time at home may practice greater self-regulation around their children, limiting opportunities for leisure-time drinking.

In the U.S., FMLA is only available to certain employees in specific states and is often at the discretion of employers based on company size and tenure.

The Swedish study followed over 220,000 first-time fathers over 18 years, tracking alcohol-related hospitalizations and deaths. These hospitalizations included issues related to intoxication, alcohol-related mental disorders, and alcohol-related diseases.

The researchers found a significant decline in alcohol-related hospitalizations among fathers who took paid leave within the first two years of their child’s birth. This reduction in alcohol-related emergencies persisted at both the eight-year and 18-year follow-up points.

The report highlights the role of “role overload” in stress and coping behaviors, including alcohol use, for parents balancing work and family life. Adequate employment-related and financial protections through parental leave can reduce stress, related coping behaviors, and ultimately improve mental health for new fathers.

In conclusion, the study underscores the benefits of paternity leave, emphasizing its potential to improve the well-being of new fathers during the challenging transition to parenthood.

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