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Low weight gain in infancy and suicide in adult life

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 04 November 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1203
  1. D J P Barker, directora,
  2. C Osmond, statisticiana,
  3. I Rodin, registrarb,
  4. C H D Fall, epidemiologista,
  5. P D Winter, computing managera
  1. aMRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit (University of Southampton), Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD
  2. bDepartment of Psychiatry (University of Southampton), Royal South Hants Hospital, Southampton SO14 0YG
  1. Correspondence to: Professor Barker
  • Accepted 8 September 1995

One theory suggests that depression in adult life originates through parental indifference, abuse, and other adverse influences in childhood. The possible contribution of development in infancy has received little attention.1 We therefore examined the association between infant growth and later suicide in 15500 men and women. Depression underlies 70% of deaths by suicide.2

Methods and results

As previously described, all births in Hertfordshire from 1911 onwards were notified by the attending midwife.3 Health visitors saw the babies periodically throughout infancy, recorded the method of feeding, and wrote general comments on the baby's development and well being. At 1 year the babies were weighed. We traced 10141 (79%) of the boys born during 1911-30 and 5585 (60%) of the girls born during 1923-30. The average birthweight and weight at 1 year of those who were traced were the same as those of the babies who were not traced. We compared the numbers of deaths from suicide at ages 20-74 …

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