"I noticed that many children with schizophrenia had old fathers" Christina Dallman physician
Father's age raises schizophrenia risk
September 06 2002 at 06:55PM
Stockholm - Swedish scientists have found that older men face a much greater risk of fathering schizophrenic children than younger men.
Schizophrenia is a widespread and debilitating form of mental disease with symptoms ranging from delusions and an altered sense of self to apathy and social withdrawal.
Scientists at Sweden's Karolinska Institute found that children fathered by men aged 45 or older were three times as likely to develop schizophrenia as offspring of men aged 20-24.
"We already knew there was an increased risk when older women have children," Christina Dahlman, the physician who led the study, said.
"When I looked closer at the men, I noticed that many children with schizophrenia had old fathers."
The findings, released this week, support earlier studies by Israeli and American scientists.
As in many Western countries, couples in Sweden are delaying having their first child. In the past three decades, the average age of a first-time mother has risen by five years to 28,5 years.
Dahlman and colleague Peter Allebeck studied 524 schizophrenics for more than seven years and found that being fathered by an older man doubled the risk of developing the disease.
As most older men tended to have older wives, the cumulative risk was three times greater.
The reasons for the link were unclear, but Dahlman said sperm cell mutations, which increase with a man's age, have been known to cause various other diseases.
Children of older men may also lose their fathers at an early age, possibly increasing the risk of schizophrenia.
Around 24 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia, according to the World Health Organisation. Symptoms can be treated but there is no cure.