When you’re planning a family, there are many issues to consider – and now it seems the list is even longer. For scientists suggest that more thought should be given to the timing of a child’s arrival. According to their research, the month in which babies are born could affect everything from intelligence to length of life.
Spring babies are at greater risk of a host of ills, including asthma, autism, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. They may also be less clever than classmates born in other seasons as well as being outlived by autumn-born friends. Scientists believe many of the differences can be explained by the mother’s exposure to sunlight in pregnancy. Sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D in the body and lack of this in the first months of life may have long-lasting effects on mental and physical health.
The ‘sunshine vitamin’ is known to help regulate thousands of genes during development and a wealth of research backs up its long-lasting influence on health. This includes a study of more than two million Danes and Austrians, who died between 1970 and 2000. This found those born from April to June typically had slightly shorter lives than those born in October, November and December. Similar studies in the U.S. showed that those born in autumn lived about 160 days longer than those born in spring. A child’s season of birth is also strongly linked to the development of multiple sclerosis, with the biggest effects seen at northern latitudes where sunlight is scarce.
Professor Russell Foster, an Oxford University neuroscientist and expert on seasonal biology, said the conclusions were ‘surprising and remarkable’. He added: ‘These are small effects but they are very, very clear. I am not giving voice to astrology – it’s nonsense – but we are not immune to seasonal interference.’