Background: Early life stress (ELS) are known to have a deleterious impact on health, but their potential long-term consequences on mortality remain to be assessed. World War 1 (WW1) has caused major stress and bereavement to millions of European mothers.
Objectives and hypotheses: To compare the effects of a maternal stress occurring during intra uterine or in postnatal life upon long-term mortality.
Patients: Thanks to recently digitized databases and a unique French legislation put in place during WW1, we studied the adult mortality of French individuals born 19141916 whose father was severely injured or killed during WW1, a major psychological stress for the mother. Vital information and socio-demographic characteristics were extracted from civil registers for children who were granted the legal status of Pupille de la Nation and born between August 1st 1914 and December 31st 1916 in 11 boroughs of Paris (n=4 170). A database comprising 1.4 million deceased French military was used to discriminate between orphans and injured soldiers children and retrieve vital information on orphans fathers. Controls were drawn from the same civil registers. The life expectancy remaining at lmin =30.7 years (elmin) of Pupilles was then compared to that of controls.
Results: The life expectancy remaining at lmin =30.7 years (elmin) of Pupilles was then compared to that of controls. With adjustment for several covariates, elmin for Pupilles was ~1 y below that of controls. The strongest effect was found for orphans who lost their father in utero. The difference in life expectancy between orphans and controls was found to decrease linearly with age, remaining close to 0 after age 65.
Conclusion: These results suggest that psychological maternal stress is transmitted to child. Timing of ELS is crucial, but ELS contributes only moderately to health disparities at older ages.
10 Sep 2016 - 12 Sep 2016