Intergenerational differences in birth outcomes between first and second generation ethnic groups

Seeromanie Harding, University of Glasgow, Michael Rosato, University of Ulster and Kennedy Cruikshank, University of Manchester

[Project number 20064]

Birth weight is a major influence on perinatal morbidity and mortality. Recently, low birth weight has been shown to be consistently related to several common chronic diseases in later life. Examples include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke. Adult morbidity and mortality from these conditions vary among ethnic groups in the UK, notably excess rates of hypertension and diabetes in both migrant West Indians and South Asians compared with the national England and Wales average, and higher CHD and stroke rates in South Asians. Migrant West Indians have consistently experienced about half the national average in CHD mortality for the last 30 years, a deficit only in part made up by excess mortality from stroke and renal disease.

More is known about intergenerational differences in birthweights in the US than in the UK. 'Black' African-American babies are about 3-400 grams lighter than 'white' American babies, and foreign-born Black African-American women appear to have better birth outcomes than US-born Black American women. This is thought to be linked to changes in risky behaviour and socio-economic circumstances.

In the UK, birth weights of babies of migrant West Indian and South Asian women are lower than the national average, but virtually nothing is known about intergenerational differences in birth weights.

The aims of the study are:

1.To investigate inter generational differences in birth weight distributions within and across ethnic groups.

2. To investigate the role of socio-economic circumstances on birthweight distributions within and between ethnic groups.

3. To investigate these issues in relation to mortality in the first year of life.

4. To investigate (1) and (2) in terms of health and well-being in childhood at the 1991 Census.

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