Most people focus on the age of the mother when they think about fertility and genetic effect on offspring. But according to a new report, the children of older fathers may be more at risk of developing psychiatric problems than children born to younger fathers.
Previous studies have revealed other risks
In fact, previous reports have indicated that “advanced paternal age” (APA) at childbearing is linked to increased risk of autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as intellectual problems. Genetic studies have claimed the age of the father at conception is linked to an increased risk of “de novo mutations.” These are when a gene becomes present in a family for the first time as the result of a mutation.
First study to show link between psychiatric conditions and APA
This large study used data from a large, Swedish population-based study which followed people over a 28-year period, 1973 to 2001. They compared children born to older fathers (aged 45 or more) with their older siblings – born from the same father, but when the father was younger (aged 20-24). They found increased risk for autism, ADHD, psychosis, bipolar disorder, suicide, substance abuse and low educational attainment.
Not necessarily causal, more research needed
While researchers were able to rule out genetic and environmental factors since the siblings shared the same father, there were still variables which could not be determined. A change in family circumstance or the peculiarities of birth order, for instance. Still, they feel confident they have found something work considering.
“The findings suggest that APA represents a risk of numerous public health and societal problems. Regardless of whether these results should lead to policy changes, clarification of the associations with APA would inform future basic neuroscience research, medical practice and personal decision-making about childbearing,” concluded the report.
Source: JAMA Psychiatry, MedicalNewsToday