Children with older fathers are significantly more likely to develop conditions such as autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder and consider suicide, according an analysis of 2.6 million people’s health records.
Scientists at Indiana University found that a child born when their father is 45 was 3.5 times more likely to have autism, 13 times more likely to have ADHD and 25 times more likely to have bipolar disorder than the child of a 24-year-old man.
Suicidal behaviour and substance misuse was twice as likely, according to the study, which is published today in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Brian D’Onofrio, who led the research, told The Times: “We were shocked by the findings. The specific associations with paternal age were much, much larger than in previous studies.”
The researchers looked at information about everyone born in Sweden from 1973 until 2001, some 2,615,081 people.
Christopher Barratt, a professor of Reproductive Medicine at Dundee University, suggested younger men should consider freezing their sperm in case they want to have a child when they are in their 40s.
Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology, or male health, at the University of Sheffield, said men should take the study’s findings seriously.
“The message to men is, if you’re in a position to do so, have your children sooner rather than later,” he said. “Think when you want them and then take off a few years.”