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Older dads study: Sperm not timeless, older dads linked to kid’s psych risks

Older dads study: Kids fathered by older men have an increased risk of mental health problems.
Older dads study: Kids fathered by older men have an increased risk of mental health problems.
Doug Plummer/Photonica/Getty

An older dads study, which includes data from 2.6 million children born in 1973 to 2001 shows a strong correlation between the age of a man when he fathers a child and the probabilities of the child having problems with mental health. This study contradicts the previous notion that men’s sperm are timeless, according to ABC News on Feb. 27.

This study was done in tandem by American and Swedish researchers who studied 2.6 million birth of Swedes. They found that greater risks of children having psychiatric problems or academic difficulties increase when fathered by men who were over the age of 24. The greater risks of this happening was in children fathered by men 45 and older.

Since time began men's sperm were thought to be timeless. It looks as if this study will put that notion in with the old wives tale section of the past. The researchers note that this type of research is not “proof,” and this doesn’t mean that children of older men will grow up to have problems.

The increase in risk was not a drastic jump in this study. Researchers found that “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.”

The most surprising numbers to come out of this research were in kids fathered by men 45 or older. These kids faced “risks of almost 25 times greater for bipolar disorder, 13 times greater for ADHD, more than 3 times greater for autism, almost 3 times greater for suicide attempts and about two times greater for substance abuse and schizophrenia,” according to this study.

The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry online Wednesday, Feb. 26. The study was called “impressive” due to its “size and depth” by geneticist Simon Gregory, who is an associate professor at Duke University.

The researchers in this study still found strong links to these risks after taking into account some factors that could potentially influence the study. Those factors were, mother’s age at conception, mental health history of family, education level of parents and health of the child’s siblings.

This research would need to be replicated and additional research would need to be done for before any alarms would go off. The research would also need evidence at the molecular level before suggesting older men shouldn’t father kids, reports Brian D’Onofrio, an associate professor in the psychological and brain sciences department at Indiana University.

Yale University expert in psychiatric disorders, Dr. Christopher Pittenger, said that the results were convincing. He also said that although it's likely the older age of a man’s sperm is linked with genetic mutations, there are other factors that may also play a role.