Paternal age and mental health of offspring

Paternal aging predicts increasing risks for offspring schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder, and other behavioral conditions. De novo mutations are implicated, but other interrelated factors are being studied, including paternal age at marriage, duration of marriage, and maternal age.


Dolores Malaspina, M.D., M.S.P.H., Caitlin Gilman, M.D., M.P.H., Thorsten Manfred Kranz, Ph.D.

Volume 103, Issue 6, Pages 1392-1396


The influence of paternal age on the risk for sporadic forms of Mendelian disorders is well known, but a burgeoning recent literature demonstrates, in addition, a paternal age effect for complex neuropsychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder, and even for learning potential, expressed as intelligence. Mental illness is costly to patients, their family, and the public health system, accounting for the largest portion of disability costs in our economy. The delayed onset of neuropsychiatric conditions and lack of physical manifestations at birth are common frequencies in the population that have obscured the recognition that a portion of the risks for mental conditions is associated with paternal age. Identification of these risk pathways may be leveraged for knowledge about mental function and for future screening tests. However, only a small minority of at-risk offspring are likely to have such a psychiatric or learning disorder attributable to paternal age, including the children of older fathers.

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