Study: Father’s age affects schizophrenia and autism risk in kids

Study: Father’s age affects schizophrenia and autism risk in kids

According to the findings of a new study recently published in the journal Nature, the risk for mental disorders like schizophrenia and autism is notably higher in children of older fathers, vis-a-vis kids of younger fathers.

The study, led by scientists at DeCode Genetics Inc. in Reykjavik, Iceland, revealed that the higher risk of the mentioned disorders in children of older fathers is apparently a result of the fact that random mutations in the genome become more copious as paternal age increases. Incidentally, the mother's age does not have any bearing on the risk for these disorders.

According to experts, while the study's findings are hardly a reason to forgo fatherhood later in life, they still might have some influence on reproductive decisions; more so as statistics have shown that the growing rate of autism diagnoses in children can, in part, be attributed to the increasing average age of fathers, which seemingly accounts for 20-30 percent of the cases.

The findings of the new study are noteworthy because they are based on an analysis of genetic material which the researchers collected from blood samples of 78 parent-child trios, with special focus on families in which parents with no signs of a mental disorder gave birth to children who developed autism or schizophrenia.

Noting that the father's age was "the only important thing" while explaining the mutations, study author Kari Stefansson - who is the CEO of DeCode Genetics - said: "There's very little else to be accounted for. That's a stunning observation."

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