Childhood influences on adult health: a review of recent work from the British 1946 national birth cohort study, the MRC National Survey of Health and Development

Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 1997 Jan;11(1):2-20. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-3016.1997.d01-7.x.


Research in this study has shown that growth in utero and early-life development were associated with a range of adult outcomes, including blood pressure, respiratory function and schizophrenia. It has also been shown that childhood social and educational factors are strongly associated with adult mental and physical health, and with adult health-related behaviour. It is suggested that the observed long-term effects of early-life physical development do not represent an inevitable outcome of childhood development, but one which is mediated by the chain of social factors that also begins in early life. The conclusions emphasise that since the social and economic circumstances that affect child health have changed greatly in recent years in some ways which are particularly adverse, we need now to be aware of the implications of such change not only for the health of children today, but also for their health in adulthood.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / physiology*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Epidemiology*
  • Family / psychology
  • Growth
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Social Environment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Wales / epidemiology