Birth Weight and Adult Health in Historical Perspective: Evidence from a New Zealand Cohort, 1907-‐1922

Evan Roberts, University of Minnesota
Pamela Wood, Monash University

We provide evidence on the fetal origins hypothesis in an historical cohort, born between 1907 and 1922 in New Zealand. Our study provides evidence on the fetal origins hypothesis in one of the earliest birth cohorts ever documented. By linking maternity hospital records to military enlistment records from World War II we have a unique historical dataset with accurate measures of health and socio-economic status at birth, and in early adulthood. Using birthweight as an indicator of early health, we find associations between birthweight and early adult health slightly larger than in modern studies. We estimate that an increase in birth weight of 1kg is associated with an increase in adult height of 2.5cm, and a decrease in systolic blood pressure of 2.4mm/Hg. Our results suggest that adult health was more sensitive to socio-economic differences at birth than in modern studies.

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Presented in Session 135: Biodemographic Influences on Health and Mortality II