The literature shows evidence for long-lasting effects of low birth weight (LBW) on many health outcomes, but little is known about effects on self-perceived health. Findings are mixed and studies are small, mostly focusing on LBW effects on health outcomes before adulthood. Further, as LBW and most health conditions including self-perceived health are partly heritable, associations between birth weight (BW) and adverse health outcomes may also be due to shared genetic as well as other (pre- and postnatal) unmeasured environmental influences. We explored LBW effects on self-perceived health in early and later adulthood using a very large and genetically informative sample of more than 50,000 Swedish twins. In addition, analyses within twin pairs (the co-twin control design) were used to examine potential associations between BW and the offspring’s risk for poor self-perceived health independent of shared environmental or genetic factors, evidence which is critical for the understanding of underlying mechanisms. Results showed that lower BW was significantly associated with poorer self-perceived health during adulthood, although the effect size was small. Co-twin control analyses suggested that this increased risk may be due to shared underlying liability (environmental or genetic) rather than a direct effect of BW, but findings were not conclusive.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics