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The loss of a close relative is one of the most stressful life events. In pregnancy, this experience has been associated with a higher risk of fetal death and under-five mortality, but little is known about potential effects on long-term mortality in offspring. We examined the association between prenatal maternal bereavement and mortality in a cohort of 5.3 million children followed until up to 37 years of age.
The population-based cohort study included 5 253 508 live singleton births in Denmark (1973–2004) and Sweden (1973–2006). Children born to mothers who lost a child, spouse, sibling, or parent during or 1 year before pregnancy were categorized as exposed.
Prenatal maternal bereavement was associated with a 10% increased all-cause mortality risk in offspring [mortality rate ratio (MRR) 1.10, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03–1.18]. The association was the most pronounced for children of mothers who lost a child/spouse (MRR 1.28, 95% CI 1.14–1.44) and was stronger during the first 10 years of life. Prenatal maternal bereavement may have stronger effects on natural causes of death in offspring, including infectious/parasitic disease (MRR 1.86, 95% CI 1.07–3.23), endocrine/nutritional/metabolic diseases (MRR 3.23, 95% CI 2.02–5.17), diseases of nervous system (MRR 3.36, 95% CI 2.47–4.58), and congenital malformations (MRR 1.39, 95% CI 1.08–1.80). No excess mortality risk in offspring was observed for unnatural causes of death.
Prenatal maternal bereavement was associated with an increased long-term mortality risk in offspring, particularly for selected natural causes of diseases and medical conditions. Our results support the fetal programming hypothesis that prenatal stress may contribute to ill health from physical diseases later in life.
Maternal stress during pregnancy may increase the risk of preterm delivery (PD), but the associations between stress and subtypes of PD are not clear. We investigated maternal loss of a close relative and risks of very and moderately PD (<32 and 32–36 weeks, respectively) and spontaneous and medically indicated PD.
We studied 4 940 764 live singleton births in Denmark (1978–2008) and Sweden (1973–2006). We retrieved information on death of women's family members (children, partner, siblings, parents), birth outcomes and maternal characteristics from nationwide registries.
Overall, the death of a close family member the year before pregnancy or in the first 36 weeks of pregnancy was associated with a 7% increased risk of PD [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.04–1.10]. The highest hazard ratios (HR) for PD were found for death of an older child [HR (95% CI) 1.20 (1.10–1.31)] and for death of a partner [HR (95% CI) 1.31 (1.03–1.66)]. These losses were associated with higher risks of very preterm [HR (95% CI) 1.61 (1.29–2.01) and 2.07 (1.15–3.74), respectively] than of moderately preterm [HR (95% CI) 1.14 (1.03–1.26) and 1.22 (0.94–1.58), respectively] delivery. There were no substantial differences in the association between death of a child or partner and the risk of spontaneous v. medically indicated PD.
Death of a close family member the year before or during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of PD, especially very PD. Possible mechanisms include both spontaneous and medically indicated preterm birth.
Maternal stress during pregnancy is associated with a modestly increased risk of fetal growth restriction and pre-eclampsia. Since placental abruption shares similar pathophysiological mechanisms and risk factors with fetal growth restriction and pre-eclampsia, we hypothesized that maternal stress may be implicated in abruption risk. We investigated the association between maternal bereavement during pregnancy and placental abruption.
We studied singleton births in Denmark (1978–2008) and Sweden (1973–2006) (n = 5 103 272). In nationwide registries, we obtained data on death of women's close family members (older children, siblings, parents, and partners), abruption and potential confounders.
A total of 30 312 (6/1000) pregnancies in the cohort were diagnosed with placental abruption. Among normotensive women, death of a child the year before or during pregnancy was associated with a 54% increased odds of abruption [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.30–1.82]; the increased odds were restricted to women who lost a child the year before or during the first trimester in pregnancy. In the group with chronic hypertension, death of a child the year before or in the first trimester of pregnancy was associated with eight-fold increased odds of abruption (odds ratio 8.17, 95% CI 3.17–21.10). Death of other relatives was not associated with abruption risk.
Loss of a child the year before or in the first trimester of pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of abruption, especially among women with chronic hypertension. Studies are needed to investigate the effect of less severe, but more frequent, sources of stress on placental abruption risk.
Anecdotal and biographical reports suggest that bipolar disorder may be
associated with high IQ or creativity, but evidence for any such
connection is weak.
To investigate possible associations between scholastic achievement and
later bipolar disorder, using prospective data, in a whole-population
Using individual school grades from all individuals finishing compulsory
schooling in Sweden between 1988 and 1997, we tested associations between
scholastic achievement at age 15–16 and hospital admission for psychosis
between ages 17 and 31, adjusting for potential confounders.
Individuals with excellent school performance had a nearly fourfold
increased risk of later bipolar disorder compared with those with average
grades (hazard ratio HR = 3.79, 95% CI 2.11–6.82). This association
appeared to be confined to males. Students with the poorest grades were
also at moderately increased risk of bipolar disorder (HR = 1.86, 95% CI
These findings provide support for the hypothesis that exceptional
intellectual ability is associated with bipolar disorder.
There is abundant evidence that schizophrenia is associated with cognitive deficits in childhood. However, previous studies investigating school performance have been inconclusive. Furthermore, there are several biological and social factors that could confound the association. We investigated whether school performance at age 16 is associated with risk of adult schizophrenia and other psychoses in a large national cohort, while controlling for multiple confounders.
Using a national sample of 907 011 individuals born in Sweden between 1973 and 1983, we used Cox regression to assess whether scholastic achievement at age 15–16 predicted hospital admission for psychosis between ages 17 and 31, adjusting for potential confounders.
Poor school performance was associated with increased rates of schizophrenia [hazard ratio (HR) 3.9, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.8–5.3], schizo-affective disorder (HR 4.2, 95% CI 1.9–9.1) and other psychoses (HR 3.0, 95% CI 2.3–4.0). Receiving the lowest (E) grade was significantly associated with risk for schizophrenia and other psychoses in every school subject. There was no evidence of confounding by migrant status, low birthweight, hypoxia, parental education level or socio-economic group.
Poor school performance across all domains is strongly associated with risk for schizophrenia and other psychoses.
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