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Fathers’ parental leave protects against alcohol-related morbidity

By Helena Honkaniemi & Sol Pía Juárez (Stockholm University)

New study shows a substantial reduction in alcohol-related hospitalisation rates within the two years after birth for fathers of children born following Sweden's parental leave reform.

Source: Josh Willink / Pexels

Generous parental leave policies have been shown to protect against mental health problems in parents, especially mothers. While studies specifically focusing on fathers are limited, the available evidence suggests that they also experience positive health effects from taking time off work when adequate incentives are in place.

One explanation for the improvement in fathers’ health through parental leave use is their decreased engagement in risky health behaviours, including alcohol misuse. However, empirical evidence supporting this explanation remains limited. 

To address this knowledge gap, Helena Honkaniemi and Sol Pía Juárez investigated first-time fathers’ alcohol-related morbidity and mortality before and after the implementation of a Swedish parental leave reform, the Father’s quota, in 1995. The reform allocated 30 parental leave days exclusively for fathers, and had previously been shown to result in a 75% increase in the proportion of fathers using parental leave. This new study, now published in Addiction, investigated the extent to which this increase led to a reduction in risky health behaviours.

The results showed a substantial (34%) reduction in alcohol-related hospitalization rates within the two years after birth for fathers of children born following the policy implementation. This is particularly noteworthy given that hospitalizations represent a severe manifestation of alcohol misuse. Most of the decrease was attributable to hospitalizations due to alcohol intoxication and alcohol-related mental and behavioural disorders.  

A smaller yet still substantial decrease in alcohol-related hospitalizations was also observed up to 8 and 18 years after birth. This suggests that the changes in, and consequences of, alcohol misuse are not confined solely to the immediate postpartum period.

The results of this study underscore the broader public health implications of family-friendly social policies, highlighting the importance of coordinated efforts across various sectors to foster healthy and equitable societies. 


Additional information

Honkaniemi, H and Juárez, SP (2023) Alcohol-related morbidity and mortality by fathers' parental leave: A quasi-experimental study in Sweden. Addiction. doi: 10.1111/add.16354.

Additional Information

Authors of Original Article