Associations of parental age with offspring all-cause and cause-specific adult mortality

David Carslake*, Per Tynelius, Gerard J. van den Berg, George Davey Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


People are having children later in life. The consequences for offspring adult survival have been little studied due to the need for long follow-up linked to parental data and most research has considered offspring survival only in early life. We used Swedish registry data to examine all-cause and cause-specific adult mortality (293,470 deaths among 5,204,433 people, followed up to a maximum of 80 years old) in relation to parental age. For most common causes of death adult survival was improved in the offspring of older parents (HR for all-cause survival was 0.96 (95% CI: 0.96, 0.97) and 0.98 (0.97, 0.98) per five years of maternal and paternal age, respectively). The childhood environment provided by older parents may more than compensate for any physiological disadvantages. Within-family analyses suggested stronger benefits of advanced parental age. This emphasises the importance of secular trends; a parent’s later children were born into a wealthier, healthier world. Sibling-comparison analyses can best assess individual family planning choices, but our results suggested a vulnerability to selection bias when there is extensive censoring. We consider the numerous causal and non-causal mechanisms which can link parental age and offspring survival, and the difficulty of separating them with currently available data.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17097
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


D.C. and G.D.S. work in a unit supported by the Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12013/9 and MC_ UU_12013/1 in 2013–2018; MC_UU_00011/1 in 2018–2023) and the University of Bristol. Finn Rasmussen contributed substantially to the study concept and early development of the manuscript.

FundersFunder number
Medical Research CouncilMC_UU_12013/1, MC_UU_00011/1, MC_UU_12013/9, UU_12013/1
University of Bristol


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