Objective: Some data suggest an association between teenage childbearing and premature death. Whether this possible increase in risk is associated with social circumstances before or after childbirth is not known. We studied premature death in relation to age at first birth, social background and social situation after first birth.
Design: Population-based cohort study.
Setting: Women born in Sweden registered in the 1985 Swedish Population Census.
Population: Swedish women born 1950-1964 who had their first infant before the age of 30 years (N= 460,434).
Methods: Information on the women's social background and social situation after first birth was obtained from Population Censuses. The women were followed up with regard to cause of death from December 1, 1990 to December 31, 1995. Mortality rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated.
Main outcome measures: Mortality rates by cause of death.
Results: Independent of socio-economic background, teenage mothers faced an increased risk of premature death later in life compared with older mothers (rate ratio 1.6, 95% CI 1.4-1.9). The increased risk was most evident for deaths from cervical cancer, lung cancer, ischaemic heart disease, suicide, inflicted violence and alcohol-related diseases. Some, but not all, of these increases in risk were associated with the poorer social position of teenagers mothers.
Conclusions: Teenage mothers, independent of socio-economic background, face an increased risk of premature death. Strategies to reduce teenage childbearing are likely to contribute to improved maternal and infant health.