Older fathers substantially raise the risk of having children with schizophrenia

New York, April 12 - While older women run a higher risk of having babies with birth defects, it has long been presumed that men could have healthy children at any age. Think again. A new study now shows that older fathers are far more likely to have children with schizophrenia, while the age of the mother appears to have no influence on the likelihood of her offspring developing this devastating disease.

The study showed a strong, steady increase in the risk of having children with the disease as men aged. Men aged 45 to 49 were twice as likely to have children with schizophrenia as men under the age of 25 who became fathers, while the risk tripled for men over the age of 50, according to an analysis of a large population of over 85,000 people by researchers from New York University School of Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, and Israel's Ministry of Health.

"Women are often made to feel responsible for problems occurring during pregnancy, especially if anything goes wrong with their children's health, but this new study shows that men also contribute," says Susan Harlap, M.D., Research Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU School of Medicine and an author of the new study.

"There has been some previous research showing that men contribute to rare genetic abnormalities in their offspring. Schizophrenia, by comparison, is common, affecting 1% of all populations worldwide," says Dr. Harlap. "I would guess that our study is just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually it would seem that the father's sperm is going to turn out to be just as important as the mother's egg."

The new findings, however, shouldn't deter older men from becoming fathers, says Dr. Harlap. "I don't think that older men should disqualify themselves from becoming parents. At any particular age, there is always a trade-off. Our study suggests that a man's progeny are going to be healthie

Contact: Pam McDonnell
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine

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