Do Men Have A Biological Clock?

At the start of the year, I posted that this blog will have a clearer focus on health and fitness articles, and this will be reflected in the content of our posts, and we are sticking by that principle! However, once in a while we like to have a little fun and share something interesting, but not directly related to fitness and healthy living. Hence the topic we will cover today.

The concept of a biological clock, as we know it in the western world, is usually related to women. Interestingly, this concept is not really present in other, more traditional societies, where the chronological path of women, and men too, were simply set and needed to be followed; no questions asked. But here in the west, it is a combination of factors that result in an interplay between expectations and reality that have given rise to this idea.

As a woman advances in age from her twenties, her well-meaning friends and relatives are more likely to warn her not to wait till too late to get pregnant and have children. Alas, it seems like no woman is immune to such advice. Not only that, the internet and women’s magazines always seem to be abuzz with this topic. Even the pop culture references have started to refer to this.

From a scientific viewpoint, it is true that women will reach a certain age when getting pregnant and having a baby is no longer a possibility. Furthermore, in the years leading up to this process, pregnancy risks become higher. Along the same lines, people are also convinced that babies conceived after the age of 35 have a higher risk of developing unwanted health problems.

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If you live in a western society, you will know that birth rates and trends are to do with class, education and race. It appears to be true that the more educated people become, the more likely they are to put off having children. After all, career progression does not happen without effort, and the prevailing mindset is that once you reach a certain level, life will be more secure. But to reach that level in the first place requires time, and that is an undeniable reality.

Unsurprisingly then, a lot of women face this dilemma of having to choose career or children, or which one to put off later. The age when women start to hit “panic mode” in western society would hover around 30. The opposite is true for men.

Cultural shifts commencing from the 1950’s has resulted in more and more men thinking that they age well with time, just like wine. There is also the idea that this process does not impact man at all. And it is not surprising to see why. The media keeps on reporting instances of old men, even in their 60’s fathering children. And to our knowledge, the babies conceived do not appear to have any obvious health issues.

However, what does the scientific literature say? To the surprise of some, researchers are increasingly believing that men also have a biological clock. Of course, due to the inherent structure of a patriarchal society, men simply do not feel it, neither is there pressure from other parties for men to get married early and try to reproduce.

According to limited research on this topic, the age of a man can influence the health of a baby in the same way as a woman’s can. However, the major difference is that the timeline is not exactly the same, which is logical if you think from the viewpoint that men, even in their 60’s, can still sire a child. There is a piece of bad news, however. Recent research has brought to light the notion that some problematic genetic conditions are more closely linked to paternal age than maternal age.

What do men think about that idea? One man who tried to test it out is Dr. Harry Fisch, who published a book called “The Male Biological Clock”, which discusses how testosterone levels and male fertility decline with age. As one would expect, a lot of heat was generated on this topic, and a lot of men who are in denial resisted this idea strongly.

Despite machismo-driven men crying foul at the research findings, the evidence remains clear. However, one thing that remains to be unclear is how and when this process starts to occur in men. The most accepted idea to date is that men’s biological clock, if you still subscribe to that term, starts to decline in their 40’s and 50’s, which of course, is much later than women’s.

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Another thing that the ego-driven males can take solace in is the trajectory of these changes. While women’s reproductive ability starts to decline sharply, men’s appear to be more gradual. So not only does the decline start later, it also ends up occurring over a longer period of time. Would that thought comfort some guys?

Some doctors have also argued against the term “biological clock” being used in such a context. The background to this argument is that since men can sire children at almost any age, it really isn’t a clock at all, but more like a game of telephone. Needless to say, and technicalities aside, the evidence of poorer outcomes in babies conceived by older men remains undeniable, and most of this comes about by increased mutation of sperm over time.

So in the end, will this idea of a biological clock actually make people take notice and spring into action? To be honest, probably not. After all, things such as reproduction do have a significant cultural component to it. So rather than being based on biology itself, systemic societal structures and expectations will be the predominant force when it comes to patterns in society. Hope that takes the pressure off some of you. But certainly not me; I’m just being honest here.

Mark

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