W A S H I N G T O N, Feb. 27, 2001 -- Being born in the fall may extend a person'slifespan by a few months.
A study appearing today in the Proceedings of the NationalAcademy of Sciences linked the birth months of more than a millionpeople who died in Denmark and Austria after the age of 50. It thenlooked for a similar pattern in Australia.
The study found that adults who were born in Austria betweenOctober and December lived about .6 years longer than those born inthe spring, April to June.
In Denmark, those born in the fall lived about .3 years longerthan did people born in the spring, the study found.
The authors, Gabriele Doblhammer and James W. Vaupel of MaxPlanck Institute in Rostock, Germany, also checked the pattern ofbirth month and lifespan in Australia and found "a mirror imagereversal of that in the Northern Hemisphere."
"The mean age of death of people born in Australia in thesecond quarter of the year is 78," the authors said. "Those bornin the fourth quarter die at a mean age of 77.65."
The authors said the difference may be related to nutritionduring pregnancy. More fruits and vegetables are available duringthe summer and fall months than during the winter and springmonths, the authors said.
This means that a woman pregnant during the summer and fallcould have a better food selection and their babies would be largerand healthier.
Opposite Hemispheres, Mirror Images
Since the seasons in Australia, in the Southern Hemisphere, arethe opposite of the seasons in Europe, this would explain why theAustralian pattern is a mirror image of the Austrian and Danishpatterns, the researchers said. Fresh fruits and vegetables aremore readily available in Australia during the first half of theyear, which are the summer and fall months south of the equator.
Doblhammer and Vaupel noted that there are many studies showingthat nutrition of a woman during pregnancy can affect the health ofher baby for its lifetime.
"The environment early in life affects the susceptibility ofadults to infections as well as chronic diseases," the researcherssaid in the study.