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Risk for Mental Illness Linked to Age of Father

older man with infant SSWhile most understand that a woman’s biological clock may influence the mental health of children, many are unaware that men also have aging changes that can influence an offspring’s health.

To that end, a new study finds that children with older fathers are more susceptible to mental health disorders.

An international team of researchers lead by Dr. John McGrath of Queensland Brain Institute’s (QBI), used Danish health registers to examine the maternal and paternal age of 2,894,688 offspring at birth.

“The study followed people with a a broad range of mental disorders including schizophrenia, mood disorders, neurotic, stress-related, eating disorders, personality disorders and a range of developmental and childhood disorders born from 1955 to 2007.

“The research method is the equivalent of 42.7 million person years,” McGrath said.

“We found that the overall risk for psychiatric disorders, in particular mental retardation, autism and schizophrenia, increased for those born to a father over the age of 29 years.”

The association between parental age and risk of mental disorders in offspring may be confounded by a range of factors.

“De novo (or new) mutation in the developing sperm cell may contribute to an increased risk for a surprisingly wide range of mental health disorders, including schizophrenia, autism and mental retardation.”

Analysis of the data also confirmed a link between the offspring of younger mothers and substance abuse disorders, hyperkinetic disorders and mental retardation.

“For the broad range of neurotic and stress related disorders, the offspring of teenaged mothers were at the highest risk,” said researchers.

The study is published in JAMA Psychiatry.

“Recent genetic studies have confirmed that the offspring of older fathers have more de novo mutations.

“Our new studies suggest that age-related mutations from the father may impact on the mental health of the offspring.”

In short, the biological clock ticks for men, as well as women.

In addition to the recent attention to the risk for mental disorders in the offspring of older fathers, the study demonstrates a more complex and nuanced pattern of association between maternal and paternal ages and the risk for mental disorders in their offering.

Source: University of Queensland

Father with his child photo by shutterstock.

Risk for Mental Illness Linked to Age of Father

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Risk for Mental Illness Linked to Age of Father. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 24 Jan 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.