Paternal Depression Increases Risk of Depression in Offspring

Depression in fathers was associated with a 42% increased risk of depression in their children, according to results from a systematic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA Network Open. 

“These findings suggest the importance of addressing maternal and paternal mental health issues using a family-focused approach to reduce the adverse effects on offspring mental health and cognitive development rather than the conventional gender-focused approach limited to maternal prenatal and postnatal mental health issues or individual treatment of the offspring,” wrote corresponding author Berihun Dachew, PhD, and study coauthors from Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia.

The systematic review and meta-analysis spanned more than 7 million father-child dyads from 16 observational studies.

Meta-analyses revealed a 1.42 odds ratio for depression in offspring exposed to paternal depression compared with offspring not exposed to paternal depression, according to the study.

Offspring exposed to paternal depressive disorders had a higher risk of depression (researchers reported a 1.65 odds ratio) than those exposed to paternal depressive symptoms (1.12 odds ratio), subgroup analysis showed. Offspring exposed to lifetime paternal depression had a higher risk depression risk (1.58 odds ratio) compared with offspring exposed paternal depression during postpartum (1.05 odds ratio) and early childhood (1.22 odds ratio).

Pooled effect estimates were consistent in sensitivity analysis and ranged from 1.35 to 1.45, the study found. 

“The potential underlying mechanisms linking paternal depression with offspring depression warrant further studies,”  researchers advised.



Dachew B, Ayano G, Duko B, Lawrence B, Betts K, Alati R. Paternal depression and risk of depression among offspring: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(8):e2329159. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.29159