May 10, 2006
Contact: Kaylyn Kendall Dines
New Study at UMDNJ and Columbia University School of Social Work
Shows an Association between Paternal Age and Low Birth Weight
NEW BRUNSWICK—Researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Columbia University's School of Social Work recently announced results from the first study to examine the impact of paternal age on low birth weight infants in a socio-economically disadvantaged population. The findings from the study are published in the May 2006 edition of the American Journal of Public Health.
In the study, teenage fathers were 30% less likely to have low birth weight babies - defined as less than 5 and one-half pounds - and older fathers were 70% more likely to have low birth weight babies than fathers between the ages of 20 to 34. The associations between paternal age and low birth weight were as large as those between maternal age and low birth weight. Low birth weight increases an infant's risk of disorders including cerebral palsy, deafness and attention deficit disorder.
The study findings contrast with those from studies of wealthier populations, which found no effects of paternal age. The divergent findings suggest that health declines more quickly among poor men and that health disadvantages are passed onto their children even before they are born, probably through sperm or chromosomal abnormalities.
These findings for men are consistent with other research indicating that the health of poor African American women deteriorates even at early ages.
"Accelerated health declines among poor individuals may be due to stresses from harsh living conditions, exposures to environmental toxins, or to limited access to health care," said Dr. Nancy E. Reichman, associate professor of pediatrics at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
"Our findings point to the links between poverty and the health of both men and women, and suggest that efforts should focus on alleviating the harsh living conditions of low income populations--not only to redress existing inequalities in health, but also to level the playing field for future generations," said Dr. Julien Teitler, assistant professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York.
The study was conducted using a national population-based sample of 4,621 births in 20 large cities nationwide between 1998 and 2000. That sample of parents includes: 65 percent of mothers were on Medicaid; 47 percent of the women were black; 27 percent were Hispanic; and 21 percent were white.
About UMDNJ (www.umdnj.edu)
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.
About CUSSW (www.socialwork.columbia.edu)
For more than 100 years, the Columbia University School of Social Work has been the leader in practice and policy. Located in New York City, the School offers Master's and Doctoral programs which are nationally and internationally recognized for their excellence. With a signature curriculum and far-reaching field education experience, CUSSW continues to be at the forefront of clinical practice, public policy, teaching, research and social work innovation in the 21st Century.