Drink too much? Smoke too much? Wanna clean up your act? Have a daughter, not a son.


Little is known about why some human beings make risky life-choices. This paper provides evidence that people’s health decisions and addictive actions are influenced by the gender of their children. Having a daughter leads individuals — in micro data from Great Britain and the United States — to reduce their smoking, drinking, and drug-taking. The paper’s results are consistent with the hypothesis that human beings “self-medicate‟ when under stress.

Source: “The Effects of Daughters on Health Choices and Risk Behaviour” from Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York

And the effect is significant:

…every additional daughter rather than son makes a person approximately 6% more likely to quit smoking and 7% less likely to have an alcohol or drug problem.

So why might people who have boys continue to drink and smoke? Because having young boys is more stressful and drinking/smoking/drugs help parents reduce stress:

Why would there be a link between people‟s health actions and the gender of their children? There is research evidence that bringing up sons is inherently more stressful than bringing up daughters; male children are more aggressive, noisier, more worrisome, and harder to placate… Human adults can if they wish choose to “self-medicate‟. They may do this, when under strain, by using substances such as tobacco and alcohol. A combination of these two assumptions leads to the prediction that the parents of boys will be observed to consume larger quantities of cigarettes and of alcoholic drinks than the parents of girls.

Next time I meet someone with five sons, drinks are on me.

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