Increased Maternal Age is associated with Risk of Autism in Children

autism and maternal age

Advancing maternal age is an independent risk factor in the development of autism in children. This fact has been further corroborated by a meta-analysis of several epidemiological studies done in the past. The results of the meta-analysis have been published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and King's College London, led by Mr. Sven Sandlin analyzed the results of 16 previously conducted epidemiological studies, which involved 25,687 cases of autism spectrum disorders and 8.6 million subjects who acted as controls. The risk of autism in children, born to mothers from different age groups, was compared. The mothers were divided into age groups of under 20, 20 to 29, 30 to 34 and above 35 years of age. It was noticed that while the children born to mothers under the age of twenty were least likely to suffer from autism spectrum disorders, children who were born to women above the age of 35 had a 30% increased risk of suffering from the condition. It was also seen that male off-springs were at an increased risk of suffering from autism.

The researchers concluded that while genetics plays an important role in development of autism related conditions, non-genetic and environmental factors are also equally responsible for it. They have opined that as the age of the mother advances, her genes undergo alteration as a part of the normal ageing process. Similarly, the exposure to toxins over the time has a cumulative effect and may increase the risk of developing autism spectrum disorders in the off-springs. It is already known that paternal age is also an independent risk factor for developing autism. The meta-analysis of the studies carried out in different countries has now established the association between maternal age and autism. 

Date: 
Tuesday, May 1, 2012