Cousin marriage health risks ‘greatly exaggerated’

A researcher has uncovered evidence that the health risks associated with marriage between cousins are greatly exaggerated, WA today reports.

Alan Bittles, Adjunct Professor at Perth’s Murdoch University, has addressed common misconceptions of same-blood marriage in a book backed by over 35 years of research.

In his book, Consanguinity in Context, Bittles — who asserts intra-familiar marriages are on the rise in Australia due to migration and over 1.1 billion people around the world are married to a close relative or are the progeny of one, — says most of the time negative genetic outcomes have nothing to do with same-blood marriage.

According to the professor, most of the offspring of first cousin marriages are perfectly healthy.

"Our findings over years of research have shown that the health risks associated with consanguineous marriage have been exaggerated, largely due to flawed research design, with a failure to allow for non-genetic factors that can adversely influence health outcomes," Bittles told WA today.

Moreover, the Professor, who hopes his research will bring more understanding and acceptance to same-blood relationships, says that there are many advantages to intra-familiar marriages.

“The advantages are social and economic in nature, with the strengthening of family ties, and the maintenance of family goods, including land-holdings," he said.