Advanced Father's Age Results in Birth Defects

Staff author: Adilia S.

In the past few years there have been a wide range of studies showing that advanced father’s age can greatly impact physical health of his children.

American scientists have found that children of older fathers have a greater risk of birth defects. Such defects are mostly provoked by epigenetic changes and can be passed to next generations, Science Daily reports.

Epigenetic changes are natural gene alterations but they can also be caused by lifestyle habits and the environment. Smoking, drinking, and recreational drugs can lower the quality of father’s sperm and influence gene expression.

Older Paternal Age

The chief author of the research, Joanna Kitlinska, an expert in the field of biochemistry from Georgetown University, believes that advanced paternal age and father’s preconception behavior have long lasting effect on his future child.

Lifestyle factors impact the expression of genes, moreover, such harmful changes could be passed to next generations. The good news is that most of the harm is recoverable. Healthy habits allow new, healthy sperm to be produced while the sperm with abnormal DNA dies out.

It also turned out that a newborn may have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), even if his mother has never drunk alcohol. Kitlinska states that 75% of children with FAS are born from an alcoholic male parent.

FASD includes physical, mental and behavioral problems with possible lifelong implications.

Older Paternal Age

The older the father, the more mutations his sperm may have. Such mutations are also caused by lifestyle habits. Fathers-to-be can contribute a lot to the health of future kids by improving their diet, giving up smoking and drinking, and increasing the amount of physical exercise.

The statistics show that:

  • Older dads’ kids are more likely to have learning disabilities, bipolar disorder, and other congenital disorders;
  • Dieting in younger age reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death in his kids and future generations;
  • Parental obesity leads to an increased number of fat cells, changes in metabolism, predisposition to diabetes, overweight and brain tumor;
  • Father’s psychosocial stress cause abnormal behavioral patterns in his kids;
  • Parental alcoholism leads to the insufficient weight of the newborn, reduced mental capacities.

Despite the fact that the health of the mother is also very important for the future baby, children of older moms are better educated and healthier than their younger siblings from the same father. It may be because women are born with their eggs unlike men, who produce new sperm daily throughout most of their lifetime. Therefore, men’s lifestyle directly affects the quality of sperm.

Some British scientists have even suggested that men should freeze their sperm in their 20s for future use. The studies confirm that the sperm of older men have more harmful mutations than in younger males. They say that aging sperm can cause problems in future as modern western men are more likely to delay fatherhood. Men who consider having children later in life will be wise to take steps to create a reserve of healthy sperm.

Kitlinska says they plan to conduct further research to understand the nature and causes of the epigenetic changes. The scientists hope to create a list of recommendations for the future parents to understand how their behavioral patterns may influence future health of their children.


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Chris Salmon
Here’s the original paper, which anyone interested should read. As a scientist, I consider it speculative fluff, as they did no original research at all. Rather, it’s a review of past papers on the subject, much like a student would do for an undergraduate class assignment. Sadly, that’s been a pernicious and increasing trend worming it’s way into the scientific record – but that’s a different topic. The other things I really don’t like about this paper are personal pet peeves of mine in scientific publishing, especially the medically related papers. First, the use of weak language indicates they are… Read more »

Dear Elena,
Totally agree with Chris! I really believe that you need to write more cautious about these research reports. Starting with the title! I really believe you should choose more tentative titles. Instead of “results” you could say something like “might be more probably to have”, etc. I really acknowledge that you are a star in on-line dating and in writing media articles, but still you do not have the permission to misuse academic research results. And similar with other articles (i.e the one about mothers). Good Luck!


The best age for having kids, I think, from 26 to 35. If the couple is younger, they still have plenty of things to do, to get a job, to find stable place to live, to improve relationships. When people are elder then 35, they have to live for themselves. They want to travel, to improve the level of life, and they do not understand their kids wishes.


I absolutely disagree with the fact that older dads’ kids are the least healthy. I think the health of the future generation depends on the father’s lifestyle habits. It is not matter how old is father. I have a lot of friends aged 40-50, who has healthy and clever children. And one-two 20-aged friends whose children have serious health problems because of their disgusting lifestyle. Nowadays there are a lot of possibilities to be sporty and healthy.


The findings in this study are more informative than in previous study. According to the researchers, although, results do not indicate a direct bond between a child and its disabilities, but they add new information on the occurrence of these problems in children. Thus, all the data collected to date on the topic can help people in making their personal decisions.