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Low birth weight, a marker of adverse intrauterine circumstances, is known to be associated with a range of disease outcomes in later life, including coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. However, it may also decrease the risk of other common conditions, most notably neoplastic disease. The authors describe the associations between birth weight, infant weight gain, and a range of mortality outcomes in the Hertfordshire Cohort. This study included 37,615 men and women born in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, in 1911-1939; 7,916 had died by the end of 1999. For men, lower birth weight was associated with increased risk of mortality from circulatory disease (hazard ratio per standard deviation decrease in birth weight = 1.08, 95% confidence interval: 1.04, 1.11) and from accidental falls but with decreased risk of mortality from cancer (hazard ratio per standard deviation decrease in birth weight = 0.94, 95% confidence interval: 0.90, 0.98). For women, lower birth weight was associated with a significantly (p < 0.05) increased risk of mortality from circulatory and musculoskeletal disease, pneumonia, injury, and diabetes. Overall, a one-standard-deviation increase in birth weight reduced all-cause mortality risk by age 75 years by 0.86% for both men and women.

Original publication




Journal article


American journal of epidemiology

Publication Date





1074 - 1080


Medical Research Council Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, United Kingdom.


Humans, Neoplasms, Cardiovascular Diseases, Birth Weight, Weight Gain, Risk Factors, Cohort Studies, Adult, Aged, Middle Aged, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Infant, Low Birth Weight, Female, Male