Childhood stunting and mortality between 36 and 64 years: the British 1946 Birth Cohort Study.
The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism 2013 ; 98: 2070-7.
DOI : 10.1210/jc.2012-3595
PubMed ID : 23533234
PMCID : PMC4207952
Our aim was to examine the associations between childhood or adult height and adult mortality.
In the prospective British 1946 Birth Cohort Study, childhood height was measured at 2, 4, 6, 7, 11, and 15 years, and adult height was measured at 36 years. Deaths were reported from the national health service register.
A total of 3877 study members (1963 male) contributed 106,333 person-years of follow-up; 391 deaths (228 male) were reported between the ages of 36 and 64 years. The strongest sex-adjusted association between height and mortality between ages 36 and 64 years was seen for height at age 6 years. The association was nonlinear; only study members in the shortest quintile at 6 years had a higher relative risk of adult mortality compared with those in the tallest quintile. By contemporary growth standards, 5.7% (n = 188) had heights at 6 years less than the second percentile, and a further 15.0% (n = 490) had heights between the second to ninth percentiles; these groups had higher adult mortality than all other study members (hazard ratio, 2.18; 95% confidence interval, 1.52-3.13; P < .001; and hazard ratio, 1.42; 95% confidence interval, 1.08-1.88; P = .01, respectively). Several determinants of childhood stunting (height at 6 years less than the second percentile) were directly associated with adult mortality; these included shorter parental heights and adverse early life nutrition and housing.
British men and women born in 1946 were relatively stunted as children by contemporary standards. Those who were short at age 6 years had substantially higher mortality 30 to 60 years later. Furthermore, they accounted for the well-recognized inverse association between adult height and mortality.