J Epidemiol Community Health 60:851-853 doi:10.1136/jech.2005.045179
  • Continuing professional education

Advanced paternal age: How old is too old?

  1. Isabelle Bray,
  2. David Gunnell,
  3. George Davey Smith
  1. Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr I Bray
 Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 2PR, UK; Issy.Bray{at}
  • Accepted 25 March 2006


Average paternal age in the UK is increasing. The public health implications of this trend have not been widely anticipated or debated. This commentary aims to contribute to such a debate. Accumulated chromosomal aberrations and mutations occurring during the maturation of male germ cells are thought to be responsible for the increased risk of certain conditions with older fathers. Growing evidence shows that the offspring of older fathers have reduced fertility and an increased risk of birth defects, some cancers, and schizophrenia. Adverse health outcomes should be weighed up against advantages for children born to older parents, mindful that these societal advantages are likely to change over time.


  • Competing interests: none.

  • Ethical approval: not needed.