According to the latest research on paternal health, older fathers are more likely to bear children with mental health issues.
The study out of Indiana University looked at 2.6 million siblings born of the same 1.4 million fathers, comparing their mental health and academic abilities according to their father’s age when they had them. What they found is staggering; with every 16.5 years in advanced age, the rate of spontaneous, or “de novo,” mutation in the DNA of a father’s sperm doubled. So, a 25 year old father may pass 25 DNA mutations to his child’s versus a 40 year old father who could pass up to 65. Women, on the other hand, only pass up to 15 mutations in her eggs at any given age. The study readily confirmed the connection between these mutations and children’s mental and academic measures.
The following compares the issues of 45 year old fathers’ offspring versus offspring of younger fathers:
- Twice as likely to develop psychosis
- Twice as likely to have substance abuse problems or exhibit suicidal ideation/behavior
- 3.5 times more likely to develop Autism
- 13 times more likely to develop ADHD
- 25 times more likely to suffer from a bipolar disorder
- 60% higher likelihood of having failing grades or low IQ
With these statistics in mind, the cultural tendency to put pressure on women because of their ticking “biological clocks” may now require a shift to the sire. This may be unlikely, however, given the trend towards delaying parenthood. Furthermore, a number of male celebrities have had children after 50, and even 60, seemingly normalizing the image of older fathers.
Here’s a list of 15 older famous fathers according to the age they had a child:
- Hugh Grant (52)
- David Bowie (53)
- Dennis Quaid (53)
- Alec Baldwin (55)
- Kevin Costner (55)
- Mick Jagger (56)
- Michael Douglas (58)
- Paul McCartney (61)
- Donald Trump (62)
- Warren Beatty (63)
- Clint Eastwood (66)
- Hugh Hefner (66)
- Steve Martin (67)
- Robert De Niro (68)
- George Lucas (69)
For these men, and many un-famous fathers, having children at such late ages correlates to multiple marriages and, in some cases, younger wives. Though the risk of a child having any of the aforementioned issues is relatively minimal, it seems that advanced paternal age is a substantial risk factor for learning and mental health problems. Still, men’s biological clocks should be kept in mind given this new information, since the hope of all parents, regardless of age, is that their children are happy and healthy.
HealthDay, W. (n.d.). Are kids born to older dads at risk for mental health woes? – WebMD. WebMD.
Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20140226/are-kids-born-to-older-dads-at-risk-for-mental-health-woes
More bad news for older dads: higher risk of kids with mental illness | TIME. (n.d.). Time.
Retrieved from http://time.com/10539/more-bad-news-for-older-dads-increased-risk-of-kids-with-mental-illness