Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Growth in utero, blood pressure in childhood and adult life, and mortality from cardiovascular disease.

British Medical Journal 1989; 298 doi: (Published 04 March 1989) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1989;298:564
  1. D. J. Barker,
  2. C. Osmond,
  3. J. Golding,
  4. D. Kuh,
  5. M. E. Wadsworth
  1. MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital.


    In national samples of 9921 10 year olds and 3259 adults in Britain systolic blood pressure was inversely related to birth weight. The association was independent of gestational age and may therefore be attributed to reduced fetal growth. This suggests that the intrauterine environment influences blood pressure during adult life. It is further evidence that the geographical differences in average blood pressure and mortality from cardiovascular disease in Britain partly reflect past differences in the intrauterine environment. Within England and Wales 10 year olds living in areas with high cardiovascular mortality were shorter and had higher resting pulse rates than those living in other areas. Their mothers were also shorter and had higher diastolic blood pressures. This suggests that there are persisting geographical differences in the childhood environment that predispose to differences in cardiovascular mortality.