(HealthDay News) — Advancing paternal age is associated with an elevated risk of psychiatric and academic morbidity in offspring, according to a study published online February 26 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Brian M. D’Onofrio, PhD, from Indiana University in Bloomington, and colleagues examined the correlation between advancing paternal age at childbearing and offspring morbidity in a population-based cohort study of 2,615,081 individuals born in Sweden (1973–2001). The risk of psychiatric and academic morbidity was examined in association with advancing paternal age, using numerous quasi-experimental designs.

The researchers found that advancing paternal age correlated with increased risk of some psychiatric disorders (e.g., autism, psychosis, and bipolar disorders), and with a reduced risk of other indexes of morbidity within the study population. In sibling-comparison analyses, there was a dose-response relationship seen for advancing paternal age with every index of morbidity, with the association as large or larger in magnitude than the estimates in the entire population. In within-sibling comparisons, offspring of fathers aged ≥45 years had an increased risk of autism (hazard ratio [HR], 3.45); attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (HR, 13.13); psychosis (HR, 2.07); bipolar disorder (HR, 24.70); suicide attempts (HR, 2.72); substance use problems (HR, 2.44); failing a grade (HR, 1.59); and low educational attainment (HR, 1.70), compared with offspring born to fathers aged 20–24 years. Commensurate results were obtained using several quasi-experimental designs.

“These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that new genetic mutations that occur during spermatogenesis are causally related to offspring morbidity,” the authors write.

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