Study Says Older Dads May Put Their Children At Risk For Psychiatric Disorders

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According to a new study, men who father children at older ages may be putting their children at heightened risks for psychiatric problems such as bipolar disorder, autism, and attention deficit conditions.

Source: Ben Cumming

Source: Ben Cumming

In the largest study of its kind, American and Swedish researchers examined data on more than 2.6 million Swedes born between 1973 and 2001. According to the findings of the analysis, men who father children past the age of 24 face increasing odds for having children with psychiatric or academic problems. The greatest risk was seen in children of parents age 45 or older.

Of course, these results don’t mean every child born to older parents will deal with mental deficits or conditions. The absolute risks were relatively small; less than one percent of kids to older dads had autism, attention deficit-disorder or bipolar disorder. Les than four percent had schizophrenia, substance abuse issues, or had attempted suicide. Academic difficulties were more common, but still not present in the majority of children to older dads.

However, when you compare the risks of the children born to dads over 45 with that of the children of dads aged 20 to 24 the increased risk is significant, according to lead study author Brian D’Onofrio, an associate professor in the psychological and brain sciences department at Indiana University.

Compared to kids of younger fathers, children born to men at the age of 45 or older were shown to have 25 times the risk for developing bipolar disorder, 13 times greater for ADHD, and more than three times greater for autism. The risk of schizophrenia and substance abuse were roughly doubled.

Simon Gregory, an associate professor at Duke University called the study “impressive” for its size and depth, but he told USA Today, “There’s no reason to ring the alarm bells that older men shouldn’t have kids” unless the results are replicated and backed by molecular evidence.

“People frequently ask me, ‘What’s the safe age'” to father children, but the answer isn’t clear-cut, D’Onofrio said. “There is no threshold where on one side it’s safe and on the other side it’s problematic.”

D’Onofrio believes the increased risk may be associated with sperm that are continually produced throughout a male’s life which may develop mutations each time the cells divide to create new sperm.

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