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Keywords:

  • birth weight;
  • growth;
  • anxiety;
  • longitudinal study

Lahti J, Räikkönen K, Pesonen A-K, Heinonen K, Kajantie E, Forsén T, Osmond C, Barker DJP, Eriksson JG. Prenatal growth, postnatal growth and trait anxiety in late adulthood – the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study.

Objective:  Trait anxiety may predispose to anxiety disorders and cardiovascular events. We tested whether prenatal growth or postnatal growth from birth to 11 years of age and in adulthood predict trait anxiety in late adulthood.

Method:  Women (n = 951) and men (n = 753) reported trait anxiety using the Spielberger Trait Anxiety Scale at an average age of 63.4 years and growth was estimated from records.

Results:  Higher trait anxiety was predicted by smaller body size at birth, in infancy and in adulthood. Moreover, faster growth particularly from seven to 11 years of age and slower growth between 11 and 63 years predicted higher trait anxiety.

Conclusion:  We found a pattern of pre- and postnatal growth that predisposed to higher trait anxiety in late adulthood. This pattern resembles that found to increase the risk of cardiovascular events and, thus, points to a shared common origin in a suboptimal prenatal and childhood developmental milieu.