U.S. near bottom of wealthy nations in childbirth deaths November 22, 2015
American children with autism may have been undercounted November 14, 2015
Medicare to spend $9 billion on hepatitis C drugs November 14, 2015
What happens after you down an energy drink? November 14, 2015
U.S. adult cigarette smoking hits a new low November 13, 2015
U.S. sees alarming jump in newborns with syphilis November 12, 2015
DNA hunt on as Chipotle E. coli outbreak grows November 3, 2015
Experts urge reassessment of breast cancer screening November 1, 2015
At top hospital, almost half of surgeries have drug mishap October 30, 2015
Study: Want a younger brain? Eat fish, stay away from meat October 25, 2015
American and Swedish researchers examined data on more than 2.6 million Swedes born from 1973-2001. Men who fathered kids after age 24 faced increasing odds for having children with psychiatric problems or academic difficulties, with the greatest risks seen at age 45 and older.
The results add to evidence challenging the notion that men’s sperm are timeless, but this kind of research isn’t proof. And by no means are children of older dads certain to have problems. Absolute risks were small — less than 1 percent of kids of older dads had autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder or bipolar disorder; and less than 4 percent had schizophrenia or fell victim to substance abuse or attempted suicide.
Academic difficulties were more common but still didn’t affect most kids of older dads.
Even so, the magnitude of increased risks faced by kids born to dads aged 45 and older versus dads aged 20 to 24 was surprising, said lead author Brian D’Onofrio, an associate professor in the psychological and brain sciences department at Indiana University.
Compared with kids of the youngest dads, those fathered by men at age 45 and older faced risks almost 25 times greater for bipolar disorder; 13 times greater for ADHD; more than three times greater for autism; almost three times greater for suicide attempts; and about two times greater for schizophrenia and substance abuse.
The study was published online Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry.
Molecular geneticist Simon Gregory, an associate professor at Duke University, called the new study impressive because of its size and depth — the authors had access to a registry of most births in Sweden over more than 20 years, along with reams of data on psychiatric treatment, education and social welfare.
Still, Gregory said, “There’s no reason to ring the alarm bells that older men shouldn’t have kids” unless the results are replicated in additional research and molecular evidence is found.
D’Onofrio said the researchers took into account several factors that could have influenced the results, including the mothers’ age at conception, parents’ education and history of psychiatric problems, and siblings’ health, and still found strong risks linked with older men.
“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.”
He’s among scientists who think the reason risks may increase with advancing age is that sperm are continually produced throughout men’s lives and mutations may occur each time cells divide to create new sperm.
By contrast, women are born with a set number of eggs that become susceptible to certain genetic mutations, including those that cause Down syndrome, as women age. Other research has suggested women’s age might play a role in autism and other disorders, but fathers’ advanced age wasn’t considered a potential risk until fairly recently.
Dr. Christopher Pittenger, a Yale University expert in psychiatric disorders, called the results convincing and said it’s likely that many genetic mutations linked with older age contribute to the conditions studied, but that other factors also play a role.
More Nation & World Headlines
NSA’s mass collection of phone metadata to end Suspect named in Planned Parenthood shootings that kill 3 GOP contenders talk about drug abuse; racial, partisan rifts persist Climate change triggers new fears of diseases Black hole swallows star — and burps Former luncheonette owner chooses to die in her restaurant White House Christmas tree arrives from Pennsylvania 3 killed, 9 wounded in attack at Planned Parenthood
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.