Background: Although life course influences have long been recognised in affective disorder, little is known about the influence of early life factors on late life anxiety and depression. The aim was to investigate the extent to which birth measures, maternal health and family circumstances were associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression in late life.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study was constructed from a cross-sectional survey sample of community residents aged 72-74 years, 406 of whom had traceable birth records. Cases and controls for late life anxiety and depression were defined applying standard cut-offs to the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. A range of measures and circumstances were extracted from birth records blind to survey data and compared in age- and gender-adjusted models.
Results: There were no differences in any anthropometric measure in either case control comparison. Case-level anxiety and depression were both associated with significantly lower maternal age. Late-life anxiety was additionally associated with smaller maternal pelvic size and the mother's condition being rated as poor at birth/discharge. Late-life depression was associated with a lower status paternal occupation.
Conclusions: There was no evidence for a substantial influence of early life size on late life affective disorder. However, there was some evidence in secondary analyses for an enduring influence of the family's socioeconomic environment and maternal health.