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Birth weight and the risk of depressive disorder in late life

  • Christopher Thompson (a1), Holly Syddall (a1), Ian Rodin (a1), Clive Osmond (a1) and David J. P. Barker (a1)...

Abstract

Background

Low birth weight is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and hypertension. Depression is highly associated with these conditions.

Aims

To examine the association between birth weight and depression in late life.

Method

A total of 882 singleton term births in the 1920s had contemporary records of birth weight and weight at 1 year. At 68 years all completed the Geriatric Depression Scale and 867 completed the Geriatric Mental State Examination. A logistic regression was used to analyse the associations between depression, birth weight and weight at 1 year while adjusting for known risk factors.

Results

Current social class, social class at birth, recent bereavement, social isolation and physical illness increased the risk of depression. After adjusting for these and weight at 1 year, the odds ratios for depression among men, but not women, rose incrementally with decreasing birth weight (1.0, 12.8; for continuous variable, P < 0.007).

Conclusions

Foetal undernutrition predisposes men to depression in late adult life. If replicated, these results would suggest a neurodevelopmental aetiology of depression, possibly mediated by programming of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Dr Christopher Thompson, Department of Psychiatry, Royal South Hants Hospital, Brinton's Terrace, Southampton SO14 0YG, UK

Footnotes

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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes

References

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Birth weight and the risk of depressive disorder in late life

  • Christopher Thompson (a1), Holly Syddall (a1), Ian Rodin (a1), Clive Osmond (a1) and David J. P. Barker (a1)...
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