Birth weight and length as predictors for adult height

Am J Epidemiol. 1999 Apr 15;149(8):726-9. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a009881.


Adult height has been found to be inversely associated with mortality. Recently, it has been suggested that growth in utero is linked with adult risk of several chronic diseases. The authors examined possible associations between birth weight, birth length, and adult height in young Danish men. They conducted the study in the fifth conscription district of Denmark including all the men born after January 1, 1973 who were residents in the study area during the period August 1, 1993 to July 31, 1994. The Danish Medical Birth Register contains information on all births in Denmark since January 1, 1973. Data on height from the Conscription Register were linked to the Danish Medical Birth Register in 4,300 conscripts examined. Nearly all Danish men have to register with the draft board around age 18 years of age where they undergo a physical examination. There was a strong positive association between birth weight and adult height; for subjects with birth weight < or = 2,500 g, mean height was 175.7 cm, while for those with birth weight > or = 4,501 g, mean height was 184.1 cm. A positive association was also found between birth length and adult height. For subjects with birth length < 47 cm, mean adult height was 175.2 cm, increasing to 184.3 cm at birth length > 56 cm. The associations between birth length and adult height persisted after adjustment for birth weight, gestational age, and other confounders, while the associations between birth weight and adult height almost disappeared when adjusting for birth length and the same confounders. Genetic and/or environmental factors operating both during the pre- and postnatal period may be responsible for the association between birth length and adult height.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Weight* / genetics
  • Body Height* / genetics
  • Denmark
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / genetics
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data