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Babies born to older fathers 'tend to have more medical issues' (theguardian.com)
63 points by laurex 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments





They didn't isolate possible confounding variables, father's health and mother's health, which I guess are more important than age, and probably also heavily correlated. Also, as I understand it a lot of studies show that epigenetics has a larger effect than we previously thought. That means those two variables are even more likely to effect infant health.

edit: removed "mother's age", since they do account for that

> "“Studies have shown that advanced paternal age is associated with negative health behaviours such as smoking and frequent alcohol consumption, obesity, chronic disease, mental illness, and sub-fertility,”."

> But Eisenberg stressed that the increased risks for individuals were small. After adjusting for the mother’s age and other factors such as education and whether she smoked, he found that children born to men aged 45 and over were born less than a day earlier on average, and weighed only 20g lighter (just over half an ounce) than those with younger fathers.

It seems like there's a lot more data there that could be interesting showing how education, smoking, and age interact, but all we're not getting that out of this article.

So that leads me to wonder, what agenda does this website have by publishing this clickbait title?


Not exactly true AFAICT, though a valid criticism.

"After adjustment for maternal age, infants born to fathers aged 45 years or older had 14% higher odds of premature birth (odds ratio 1.14, 95% confidence interval 1.13 to 1.15), independent of gestational age, and 18% higher odds of seizures (1.18, 0.97 to 1.44) compared with infants of fathers aged 25 to 34 years. "


I should preface this by saying that I spend a lot of time reviewing scientific papers for private sector firms searching for red flags. So certain issues in scientific papers become common enough that they, sort of, jump out at you right away.

That's why, in fairness to HN user wufufufu, we should point out that they do NOT control for the age of the female. They only say that the male in the reproductive couple was aged X. (No indication as to the health of the female either.)

In general, when a wholly biological effect is observed in human study populations, without reference to a preceding controlled study on, say, mice, your antennae go up. Now in the private sector, that means that the people I worked for would adjust or shuffle resources to account for the likelihood of partners or customers bringing successful legal actions. (Or, perhaps, cancel projects altogether.) But here all it means is that you probably can go ahead and have kids if you are thinking about it and are already over 35.

Humans, (and several other animals), have been doing this for millennia. It's very likely not older people having kids that will eradicate us. (Or even lead to our decline, to be perfectly frank.)


> That's why, in fairness to HN user wufufufu, we should point out that they do NOT control for the age of the female

The article is so poorly written that one can't tell whether they controlled for it or not.

The first, second and third paragraphs all list increased health problems or indicators of health problems without mentioning whether they control for the mother's age. The fifth paragraph gives some more figures (born a day earlier, weigh 20g less) which don't contradict the other paragraphs, and explicitly mentions controlling for the mother's age.

If they didn't control for the mother's age (a huge effect and hugely correlated with the father's age) the study should never have been published or reported on. If they did control for it and found such insignificant differences, it should have been published, but not reported on. For my faith in research, I'm left hoping they did find some large effects after controlling for the mother's age but the Guardian has failed to communicate that.


Many people are deeply uncomfortable with the inequality between men and women when it comes to the range of reproductive years. The motivation here appears to be to imply that men should also feel bad for having children later in life.

Well it's had the opposite effect on me. As a man in my mid 30s, in university as an undergrad for the first time, I hope to start a family before I'm 45. The data from this article, in stark contrast to the alarmist headline, has given me some reassurance.

I can't think of any reason other than spite for a woman to wish birth defects and fertility problems on men she's never met, just for the crime of waiting longer to start a family.

Life isn't fair to men and women in this case. We don't make it fair by hurting men, we do it by helping women.


Holy shit. I had an old dad, 52 when I was born. most of those listed conditions affect me or have affected me greatly in the past... My younger sibling is missing a chromosome, stuck as a permanent infant (mentally). This is both enlightening and extremely depressing.

> what agenda does this website have by publishing this clickbait title

Contrarian positions will always attract clicks. Their agenda is eyeballs.


Here is a well-written summary and review of the study from the NHS website (which also reviews coverage of this story in the UK press):

https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/health-problems-...


Clearly they are reporting the findings, but what would interest me is exploring the benefits to children of older fathers and establishing at which point the competing forces balance.

The obvious factor is increased wealth - this tends to be backloaded, thus there is a benefit from greater available income to spend on a child, whether this is in the form of better nutrition, better education, greater parental availability (not universally going to increase with age, but the option is more easily there for a well off father vs a father just making ends meet)

Other factors may be less clear, less universal and probably not so widely agreed: things such as an older father potentially having a child with fewer siblings or being more settled (in a maturity sense).

And finally, it would be interesting to look at this in a two generation scale: what of children born to young fathers but where those fathers themselves had older fathers? Is the effect passed on or does it get reset?


I can offer a personal anecdote here. When I was born, my father was a very healthy 50 who didn't drink or smoke and who got regular aerobic and resistance exercise. He took an early retirement buyout when he was in his mid 50s, so as a toddler I had a ton of time with him and it was, from my perspective at least, absolutely wonderful. He also had children and grandchildren already, and that experience was likewise quite beneficial.

So I can confirm that in at least some cases there are benefits to having an older father. I have no doubt that there are drawbacks also. One of the obvious ones is that on average you will have your father in your life for much less time.

If you're going to have children later in life, man or woman, make sure you've been looking after your health and continue to do so. Young persons can take much more abuse and remain healthy, older ones can't.


I've always thought Atticus Finch as the most ideal father.

> “Studies have shown that advanced paternal age is associated with negative health behaviours such as smoking and frequent alcohol consumption, obesity, chronic disease, mental illness, and sub-fertility,” she writes, adding that all are linked to health problems in newborns."

These are key details, and weren't mentioned until the end. In other words, age could be too general in that it's acting as a proxy for other known negatives.


The current state of things is not conducive to the continuation of our species. We should change some things.

xczbzbdhdtryhb/dhbdbxnrfbgdv7gggghnnhjhggffcvcbvxbcqwerytuoouipasdfghjkklzxcvbnmmf|bvvccvvvvbbvv||////

(EDIT: LPT, TLDR removed) If you're approaching 35 as a male and haven't had kids yet (or have had kids and might consider more), put some reproductive tissue in cryo. There's also a paper floating around that chronic stress from fathers can be passed genetically to children (which you might be able to avoid using tissue banking) [1]. Cost is ~$1k for collection and 5 years of storage, $2k for 10 years of storage (prices are for the US based on my research).

[1] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-dads-stresses...


That isn't something this article discusses so that isn't actually a "TL;DR."

Additionally cryopreservation itself can cause sperm damage (during initial freezing), which while often inconsequential for people e.g. undergoing cancer treatment or who would otherwise find themselves infertile before finding a partner, should be weighed if you're opting to forgo kids and view cryopreservation as a mitigation for age-based sperm damage.

If you have the opportunity and ability to have kids before 45 then it is safest just to do so. Freezing and waiting because it is inconvenient isn't a risk free venture.


The data shows people are putting off having kids longer, both men and women [1]. Damage to reproductive tissue from rapid freezing used in cryopreservation is inconsequential; here is a report of an embryo frozen for 25 years that was successfully used to bring a fetus to term [2]. $1k-2k is cheap insurance against the future, versus rushing to have children. It's not perfect, but as I said, it's insurance. If the thawed tissue can't be used for IUI procedures, there will be ample supply to use with IVF. Very similar to being cryogenically frozen, having any percentage of success is better than 0.

This will all be moot in 5-10 years when technology is commercially available to generate reproductive tissue from adult cells [3].

[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/01/14/4628164...

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42420864

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/oct/14/scientists-c...


> Damage to reproductive tissue from rapid freezing used in cryopreservation is inconsequential

Relative to what?

> here is a report of an embryo frozen for 25 years that was successfully used to bring a fetus to term

Loss of viability is only one metric by which damage can be measured. Something can be viable but the damage causes a less healthy child, just like age based DNA damage.

Plus the embryo's age is a mislead showcase. Correctly stored embryos can last almost indefinitely (atmospheric radiation damage being the only limiter). The risks from cryopreservation is primary during the freezing process.


> Relative to what?

Relative to not having the ability to reproduce at all in the future, or at an unknown diminished capacity. I'm not sure where your fearmongering is coming from, the science is proven that banking male reproductive tissue is safe for the donor and effective for bringing a fetus to term in the future when paired with a healthy egg.

Ten years ago studies were done on young adults with cancer banking semen for future fertility use [1], and the success rate was 30% with IUI and 50% with IVF. Those odds are even better today with improved clinical cryopreservation methods (vitrification has shown success rates upwards of 90-98%).

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17647219


> Relative to not having the ability to reproduce at all in the future, or at an unknown diminished capacity.

That isn't what we're discussing. We're discussing opting to delay reproduction and using an imperfect means to do so. You're trying to conflate it with e.g. cancer victims or those who are losing their fertility, which wasn't your original proposition at all.

When there is no alternative it is a huge improvement, when you're opting into it for no great reason, you have to examine the costs more closely. You've stumbled into contrasting age based DNA damage with Cryopreservation's damage.

> I'm not sure where your fearmongering is coming from

Science. The scientific literature has been clear on the DNA damage sustained during the freezing process for tens of years:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryopreservation#Risks




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