- Women have previously been warned of delaying pregnancy
- But new research conducted at the London School of Economics disagrees
- It says births postponed 10 years benefit from a decade of social changes
Children of older mothers are healthier, taller and obtain more education than children of younger mothers, according to a study.
Researchers claim health and educational opportunities steadily improve year-by-year, meaning it pays to be born later.
Most research has previously suggested that older motherhood causes a heightened probability of Down Syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension and diabetes.
However, while not arguing against this, the latest findings by the London School of Economics and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, in Germany, suggest there are also benefits.
Specifically, the fact a ten-year difference in maternal age is accompanied by a decade of changes to social and environmental conditions.
‘Those twenty years make a huge difference,’ explains author Mikko Myrskylä.
‘A child born in 1990, for example, had a much higher probability of going to a college or university than somebody born 20 years earlier.’
Scientists used data from over 1.5 million Swedish men and women born between 1960 and 1991 to examine the relationship between maternal age at the time of birth, and height, physical fitness, grades in high school, and educational attainment of the children.
Physical fitness and height are good proxies for overall health, and educational attainment is a key determinant of occupational achievement and lifetime opportunities, they said.
They found that when mothers delayed childbearing to older ages, even as old as 40 or older, they had children who were taller, had better grades in high school, and were more likely to go to university.
The benefits associated with being born in a later year outweigh the individual risk factors arising from being born to an older mother. We need to develop a different perspective on advanced maternal age
For example, comparing two siblings born to the same mother two decades apart, they found on average the child born when the mother was in her early 40s spends more than a year longer in the educational system.
The researchers compared siblings who share the same biological mother and father and who grew up in the same household environment.
‘By comparing siblings who grew up in the same family it was possible for us to pinpoint the importance of maternal age at the time of birth independent of the influence of other factors that might bias the results,’ said Barclay.
‘The benefits associated with being born in a later year outweigh the individual risk factors arising from being born to an older mother. We need to develop a different perspective on advanced maternal age.’
The research was published in the Population and Development Review.