Schizophrenia is a severe form of mental illness. It is typically a severe mental disorder which directly affects how the individual thinks, behaves and experiences emotion. Schizophrenia sufferers often seem to have lost touch with reality.

While it isn’t as common as other mental health problems, the common symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, trouble concentrating, movement issues, and confusing thoughts can be very disabling. Left untreated it can severely hamper an individual’s quality of life, with the potential to make them harmful to themselves and others.

Biological Psychiatry Examines The Impact Of A Father’s Age On Schizophrenia Risk For His Children

New research published in Biological Psychiatry found that advanced paternal age can potentially increase the risk factors for schizophrenia in offspring of males with undiagnosed or early-onset schizophrenia. Until recently the association between paternal age and the risk in children has not been clear.

The Biological Psychiatry journal is the official publication used by the Society of Biological Psychiatry. Their primary purpose is to promote improvements in scientific research as well as education for investigating the nature, causes, mechanisms, and relevant treatment for disorders of thought, behavior, and emotion.

The journal prides itself on publishing novel results related to original research that represents an important new lead or significant impact on the field. They particularly focus on topics which address genetic and environmental risk factors.

Biological Psychiatry is seen as one of the most selective and most frequently cited journals in the field of psychiatry. It’s currently ranked 6th out of 142 other psychiatry titles in the Neurosciences field.

Detangling The Factors That Contribute To Early Onset Schizophrenia Risk

Yet this isn’t the first time that advanced paternal age has been linked to some degree with increased schizophrenia risk in offspring. It’s merely been challenging to disentangle other factors from the effects related to the age of the father In one such case the father’s age was considered to be spurious as he was late into fatherhood and it could have potentially reflected his existing genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, which could be carried onto his offspring regardless of age factors.

Recent technological advancements in genotyping have allowed for schizophrenia predisposition to be estimated more accurately. This includes a careful process of combining individual contributions with the genetic variations associated with schizophrenia. The scope of the information encompasses the entire genome, which yields a polygenic risk score. This helps specialists in the field to more accurately predict the risk of developing schizophrenia.

The researchers determined that the polygenic risk scores for the over 1,600 parents with some degree of schizophrenia. This was then used to estimate the maternal and paternal predispositions to this mental health disorder. Men who had their first child later in life tended to have increased polygenic risk for schizophrenia.

In one such study conducted at the Medical University in Taichung in China, used data sets with control groups that were established for parental polygenic risk scores, with a 10-year delay in paternal age. This yielded an increased risk for early-onset schizophrenia in the offspring by just over 30%.

While female genetic predisposition was considered a factor, the data did not specifically screen maternal age. The published findings assert that paternal age itself can play a separate role in the risk for psychiatric health conditions in offspring.

How Is Early-Onset Schizophrenia Defined?

In the study, “Early-Onset Schizophrenia” was defined as occurring before the age of 18-years. Filtered in this way it tended to be the more severe form of the disorder which was also associated with other significant genetic abnormalities. This included patients who had otherwise healthy parents with no apparent family history of schizophrenia. Referred to as “Sporadic” these cases are thought to be directly related to genetic mutations.

Taken in this context it seems that older males are at increased risk for offspring who develop early-onset schizophrenia due to an accumulation of related genetic mutations. This phenomenon seems to be distinct compared to others that are more commonly associated with an increased risk for schizophrenia.

Early On-Set Schizophrenia has several common symptoms and signs to look out for. This includes things like recurring depression and deepening social withdrawal. This often happens with deteriorating personal hygiene, as well as hostility or suspiciousness, and often extreme reactions to otherwise constructive criticism. Many also struggle to focus on simple tasks or become increasingly forgetful of new information.

As schizophrenia progresses the individual might struggle with insomnia, and oversleeping, as well as developing a flat, or seemingly expressionless gaze. Some individuals with untreated schizophrenia will lose the ability to express positive emotions or cry. While others may start to laugh and cry at inappropriate times.

The Factors Affecting Fertility And Choosing To Have Children

The study also seems to suggest that there might be a correlation between distinct neural mechanisms through paternal age. This could be related to sperm quality issues as a male grows older or the increased likelihood of physical dysfunction developing in the male reproductive system. Further research into the area seems warranted and highly likely.

Being able to identify these mechanisms is an increasing concern for older fathers. Especially those who are hoping to conceive or those who have been struggling with fertility issues later in life.

Today more and more men are waiting until they are older to have children. This could be related to several different factors. Many simply want to wait until they are more established in their career and able to provide a more stable life for their potential children.

If your family has a history of schizophrenia, especially in children conceived by older fathers, you might want to consult with a fertility specialist. There may be a variety of treatments or intervention methods possible, depending on your particular risk factors. One option might be to bank sperm at a younger age, with the intention of using it for IVF, should you decide to put off having children until later in life.

Source – Eureka ALert