To test the hypothesis that birth weight for gestational age and weight gain in early childhood have a long term association with psychological distress in adults.
Longitudinal study of 1958 birth cohort followed to age 42 years.
Population based birth cohort study.
9731 cohort members with valid perinatal, postnatal, and adult data.
Main outcome measures
Malaise inventory scores measured at ages 23, 33, and 42 years. Generalised estimating equations approach used to analyse repeated measures.
Psychological distress score was inversely related to birthweight z score and weight gain from birth to the age of 7 years. A unit increase in birthweight z score or childhood weight gain was associated with a mean reduction in psychological distress score of 0.10 (95% confidence interval 0.05 to 0.15) and 0.06 (0.02 to 0.10), respectively. Birth weight and weight gain were also inversely related to the odds of having a high level of psychological distress, with odds ratios being 0.90 (0.85 to 0.95) and 0.93 (0.89 to 0.98), respectively.
Psychological health in adults is related to fetal growth and growth in early childhood.
What is already known on this topicPsychological outcomes in children are related to fetal growth and postnatal growthSize at birth is also associated with psychological outcomes in adolescents and young adultsWhat this study addsBoth birthweight z score and weight gain in early childhood are associated with psychological distress at ages 23 to 42The impact of a smaller size at birth may be compensated for by a higher postnatal weight gain