Prenatal famine exposure and mental health in later midlife

Thijs van den Broek*, M. Fleischmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives: Maternal malnutrition during pregnancy may have long-lasting effects on offspring's mental health. We investigate the effect of prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine (mid November 1944 to late April 1945) on mental health in later mid-life. Methods: Data are from the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study (n = 642). We use difference-in-difference analyses to compare mental health in later midlife (measured with the MHI-5 index) across three cohorts (‘pre-famine cohort’, ‘famine cohort’, ‘post-famine cohort’) and across two regions (famine affected cities vs. rest of the country). Results: In the affected cities, we find poorer mental health for the famine cohort than for the pre-famine and post-famine cohorts. In the non-affected rest of the country, no significant mental health differences between birth cohorts were found. The mental health differences between birth cohorts differ significantly between the affected cities and the rest of the Netherlands. Conclusion: Our analyses link prenatal famine exposure to poorer mental health in later midlife. This suggests that in utero malnutrition has a long-lasting detrimental effect on mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-170
Number of pages5
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number2
Early online date10 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Depression
  • environmental factors/housing/rural-urban factors
  • Quantitative methods and statistics
  • statistical approaches (statistical expertise)


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