If you’re trying to lock down your future baby daddy, you might want to start hunting for men who are a little bit younger rather than older. Older men's kids may have a higher risk for psychiatric illness, like ADHD, bipolar disorder, and learning disabilities, according to researchers from the United States and Sweden.
The effects on a man’s future children start early, too. The risks begin to increase after a man has turned 24, and become much higher as he ages. The report, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that, compared to men who fathered children in the early 20s, older men ran a much higher risk of passing on the DNA that codes for mental illness as they age.
According to NBC News, “a man who became a father at 45 would run a 13-fold increased risk of having a child with ADHD, a 24-fold increased risk of a child with bipolar disorder, and a 3.5-fold increased risk of having a child with an autism spectrum disorder.” This study builds upon research from 2012 that found that even though sperm is constantly replenished in men’s bodies, it becomes more vulnerable to “spontaneous mutations” that could explain the increase in risk for mental illness.
Researchers did say that older men shouldn’t stay away from having children, even though they found the research compelling and well-conducted. Molecular geneticist and Duke University professor Simon Gregory told ABC News that the study was “impressive” because it was able to access a registry of 20 years of births in Sweden, along with “reams of data on psychiatric treatment, education, and social welfare.” Gregory did say, though, that further research was needed, and there was “no reason to ring the alarm bells that older men shouldn't have kids"
This study provides valuable information, especially for men with a history of mental illness. A lot of people who have struggled with mental illness worry deeply about whether or not they will pass their conditions on to their children, so it’s best for these men to know about the realities of how their genetics may impact their kids.
In the same way that genetic testing helps parents avoid more than 3,000 inherited conditions and disorders, this research helps parents-to-be, specifically fathers, make a more informed decision about when they should be trying to bring a child into the world.