Association between birthweight and cognitive function in middle age: the atherosclerosis risk in communities study

Ann Epidemiol. 2011 Nov;21(11):851-6. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2011.06.004. Epub 2011 Jul 23.


Purpose: We aimed to examine the relationship of birthweight to cognitive performance in middle aged participants of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC).

Methods: Cognitive function, assessed by means of three neuropsychological tests-the Delayed Word Recall Test (DWR), the Digit Symbol Subtest of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (DSS/WAIS-R), and the Word Fluency (WF) Test, was evaluated in relation to birthweight, as recalled through standardized interviews, by the use of data from the second and fourth follow-up visits of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study cohort (1990-1992 and 1996-1998, respectively). Overall, 6785 participants satisfied the inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis.

Results: After adjusting for adult sociodemographic factors, childhood socioeconomic environment and parental risk factors, and adult anthropometric, health status-related. and behavioral variables, we observed linear trends for the relationship of birthweight to WF scores, although the trend was statistically significant only for those reporting exact birthweights (p for trend = .004). For the other cognitive test results, results were either null or inconsistent with the a priori hypotheses.

Conclusions: Except for WF in those reporting exact birthweights, our study does not support the notion that birthweight influences cognitive function in adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Birth Weight*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fetal Development
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology