Does exposure to infectious diseases in infancy affect old-age mortality? Evidence from a pre-industrial population
Many studies have shown that health conditions experienced in childhood play an important role on an individual's adult mortality. Recent research suggests that past reductions in early life exposure to infectious diseases have been a major contributor to the historical decline in old-age mortality. Drawing on French-Canadian data from cohorts born in the 17th and 18th centuries, we test whether a progressive deterioration in early life conditions (as revealed by an increasing infant mortality rate) translates into a decrease in survival prospects in late life. We use traditional demographic measures such as the age-specific probability of death, and a series of proportional hazard models to control for familial and environmental conditions. Results point toward little evidence of any early life effects. The trend of increasing infant mortality does not correlate with a general increase of mortality in older ages within the same cohorts. Period changes affecting survival at older ages (war, epidemics) as well as demographic and biological characteristics shared within families have a much larger role in old-age mortality than early life characteristics shared within the same cohorts.
Volume (Year): 68 (2009)
Issue (Month): 9 (May)
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