New research suggests that fatherhood after the age of 40 is not as uncommon as what you may think. In fact, there are now far more men over that age who are becoming fathers to newborn babies.
The study published Thursday in the journal Human Reproduction suggests that the average age of fathers in the United States has gone up considerably over the past four decades. In 1972, men became fathers to newborn babies at an average age of 27. That figure rose to 30.9 years as of 2015, with college-educated fathers of newborns having an average age of 33.3-years-old, and those with a high school diploma aged 29.2-years-old on average. The New York Times added that Asian fathers were the oldest, and black and Hispanic fathers the youngest, in terms of ethnicity.
If you’re wondering whether 40-years-old is too old to become a first-time father or not, the study’s findings offer more statistical proof that dads aren’t as young as they used to be.
As noted in a Boise State Public Radio report citing data from the new study, twice as many men these days become fathers after they turn 40-years-old, as compared to the 1970s. Approximately 9 percent of babies born each year in the U.S. have fathers over the age of 40, and another 40,000 out of 4 million newborn babies per year have fathers older than 50-years-old. The latter fact, according to senior author and Stanford University Medical Center assistant professor of urology Michael Eisenberg, was especially surprising.
Outside of the U.S., separate studies have also suggested that fathers are becoming older in other parts of the world. In 2006, a U.K. study noted that about 40 percent of live births can be traced to fathers aged 35 to 54. Similarly, data from Germany suggests that the median age of fathers has ticked up to 33-years-old.
Even with those numbers, is it really a wise idea to enter fatherhood after 40? Eisenberg related to Boise State Public Radio that there are advantages and disadvantages for those who choose to become parents once they reach middle age or older. One of the key advantages is having “more resources,” as older mothers and fathers tend to have reached higher levels of education, and are typically farther along in their careers. Huffington Post Canada also cited another recent study, which found that sons of older fathers had a greater chance of doing well in school and focusing on their own interests, among other “geeky” traits.
However, when it comes to risks or disadvantages, Eisenberg noted that the risks for men aren’t as clear as they are for women.
Previous studies have suggested that the quality of a man’s semen could decline as he grows older, and as Eisenberg and his colleagues noted in the new study, there have also been studies suggesting babies born to older fathers might have a greater risk of being diagnosed with autism, neurological disorders, or psychiatric illnesses. But Eisenberg added in his interview with Boise State Public Radio that he often tells patients that fatherhood after turning 40 does not pose a much larger risk of children developing the aforementioned conditions.
“It’s kind of like buying two lottery tickets, instead of one,” said Eisenberg, who explained that buying two tickets doubles one’s chances of winning, but doesn’t significantly improve those chances in the grand scheme of things.
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