Can a man after 45 be a new father?
A study published in the new issue of the journal JAMA Psychiatry warns men over 45: late fatherhood increases the risk of having a child with mental disorders, ADHD and autism.
In recent years the phenomenon of becoming a father after the age of 40 is increasing. More and more men after the aged of 40 decide to start a new family and have children. Many have healthy and happy kids. But research revealed the negative side of the phenomenon. Each year after the age of 25, men experience decrease in the normal sperm quantity and motility by 4-5 %. In addition, the sperm distribution in the testicles that accrues throughout life carries a risk of error in semen DNA as the number of divisions increased in old age.
The bottom line is that the older the man, the higher the level of risk of miscarriage, fetal defects, neurological problems and mental issues.
The study examines data from millions of men and babies and finds evidence that the biological clock ticks for men too. The aging of the men’s semen leaves the newborn at risk.
Previous studies have found an association between paternal age and child’s brain function. This study, the largest conducted to date, had worse results than researchers imagined. According to the research, genetic mutations accumulated in men’s sperm over the years.
Male infertility impaired with age: Semen volume is declining and sperm motility is also impaired with time. Another study conducted in France found that the chance of miscarriage increased significantly when the man is 40 or older.
Autism, suicide and drugs
The new study examined the academic achievements of the 2.6 million babies born to 1.4 million men in Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the University of Indiana in the United States. Data from the study showed that children of fathers aged 45 and older were 3.5 times more at risk of developing autism, double risk to suffer from psychiatric disorders, suicidal behavior and drug use, and at a 13 times higher risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Less than 1% of children born to fathers under 45 suffered Bipolar disorder, compared with 14% of children of fathers 45 and over. In many cases, the risk of any specific disorder increased with the father’s age.
Impact on educational achievement was also dramatic. Children from older fathers had 60% lower achievements at the age of 15. They were also at high risk of dropping out of school by the tenth grade (70%).
The researchers emphasized that rising paternal age in the USA may increase the rate of psychiatric disorders and problems in studies of the future generations.
Is there a reason to panic?
The issue is very complex. It is not clear whether damaged female eggs or a man’s aged semen causes the effects of the child. In addition, a parallel study in the United States included 300 children with autism, and did not find an association between paternal age increasing the risk for autism. “Autistic kids did not necessarily have an older father”. We need to examine the results of this study carefully before arriving at any firm conclusions. But you must be aware of the facts.