Advanced Maternal Age Associated With Increased Odds of OCD in Offspring

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
There is a greater risk of OCD in children born to older mothers but not older fathers.

ATLANTA, Georgia – There is accumulating evidence of an increased risk for various neuropsychiatric disorders in children born to older parents.1 Studies dating back to the 1950s have reported a link between schizophrenia and advanced paternal age.2 Although father’s age is a known risk factor for schizophrenia in offspring, and comorbid obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is observed in approximately 15% of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia,3 it’s currently unclear whether the age when a father has his first child is also associated with OCD.

In the United States, lifetime prevalence rates of OCD vary between 1.6% and 2.3%.4 This chronic disorder of the brain and behavior frequently results in significant distress or disability caused by obsessions (anxiety-provoking, recurrent and unwanted thoughts) and compulsions (repetitive, anxiety-relieving mental or behavioral rituals).5,6

Just this week, contrary to the researchers’ original hypothesis, advancing maternal but not paternal age was found to be associated with increased odds of children being diagnosed with OCD, according to a team of investigators affiliated with the University of Turku, Finland, and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.7

The study was presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in Atlanta, Georgia.

The mean age of diagnosis of OCD in this nationwide population-based sample of more than 2000 individuals was 15.2 years (SD: 4.1; range 3-25). The mean maternal and paternal age among participants diagnosed with OCD was 29.7 years (SD: 5.4; range 16-47 years) and 32.1 years (SD: 6.2; range 16-74 years), respectively. After adjusting for relevant covariates, the offspring of mothers older than 40 years of age had a 46% increase in the odds of being diagnosed with OCD as compared to those children born to mothers between the ages of 25 and 29 (OR: 1.46, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.07-1.99).

The current trend of maternal delayed first childbirth in the United States shapes demographic change and has significant public health implications.8 “Special attention may be needed while dealing with children of older parents, and detailed understanding of the underlying mechanisms is necessary before planning any preventive measures,” the researchers concluded.

Click here for more research from the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.


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  8. Matthews TJ, Hamilton BE. Mean age of mothers is on the rise: United States, 2000-2014. NCHS data brief, no 232. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016.