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Healthcare Key Findings: November 2012

Older Fathers More Likely to Pass on Genetic Mutations

Older Fathers More Likely to Pass on Genetic Mutations

According to a new genetic study, older men are more likely than younger ones to have children with autism and schizophrenia because older fathers pass on significantly more random genetic mutations, increasing the risk for these conditions. The findings may partly explain the rise in autism diagnoses in recent decades, now 1 in 88 children in the U.S. Between 1980 and 2011, the average age of fathers rose from 28 to 33. The study also counters the common assumption that it is the mother’s advanced age that contributes to these problems.

The study found that a 20-year-old dad passes on an average of 25 new genetic mutations to his child, while a 40-year-old dad passes 65. A mother transmits about 15 new mutations, regardless of age.


  • Based on 2007-2009 data, 36% of U.S. teens are sexually active, with rates varying from 28% in Colorado and Vermont, to more than 45% in Georgia and Mississippi. (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • The number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. has nearly doubled since 2004 to more than 7,000. (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Bloomberg Businessweek)
  • Employer-sponsored health coverage declined from 56.1%, covering 170.8 million people in 2009, to 55.3%, covering 169.3 million people in 2010. (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Each year in the U.S., 40,500 critically ill patients die with an unknown (misdiagnosed) medical condition that may have caused or contributed to their deaths in intensive care units. (

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