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Home > Research Articles > Birth weight may impact longterm stress

FaxWatch Inc.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Researchers followed the weight gain of 9,731 males and females from birth in 1958 until age 42. Psychological test scores were taken at ages 23, 33 and 42 years.

Poor psychological health appeared to relate to lower birth weight and slower weight gain from birth until age 7. However, rapid weight gain in infants does positively impact long-term psychological health, according to the study.

High distress at age 23 was apparent in 6 percent of the male subjects and 18 percent of the female subjects. At age 42, 15 percent of the men and 22 percent of the women showed stress.

The findings support previous research that heavier babies had less of a risk of stress at age 26.

Researchers cannot be sure of the reason why weight affects psychological health, but the study authors suggest growth failure leads to changes in stress hormones. The hormone cortisol is more susceptible to stress and children with impaired growth have been found to have it in higher concentrations.

The findings were reported in the Oct. 5 issue of British Medical Journal.

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© FWI 2002