Hongwei Xu

Xu et al find lower cognition at midlife for adults born during China's 1959-61 famine

an In The Media Reference

"Babies born during famine have lower cognition in midlife" - XinhuaNet. 12/12/2017.

Using data from China's Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, Hongwei Xu, Zhenmei Zhang, Lydia Li, and Jinyu Liu assessed the cognitive function of about 2,500 rural Chinese adults born between 1958 and 1963, a period starting a year before and ending 2 years after China's Great Leap Forward famine. The study found that the group born in 1959, who had malnutrition in utero and in the first two years of life, scored higher in the baseline study than the reference group born in 1963, a year without famine. However, "despite having a higher general cognition at the baseline due to mortality selection," those born in 1959 experienced a subsequent decline, said Xu. Findings also indicated that those born in the last year of the famine (1961) has significantly lower scores than those born later. The authors conclude: "Severe nutritional deprivation during prenatal and postnatal periods has a lasting impact on cognitive performance in Chinese adults in their early 50s." Xu, who is concerned that those born in the famine period also have greater risk of developing dementia, says these findings are important to consider when looking at China's aging population: "People tend to treat all types of cognitive decline as part of a normal aging process. But our study showed that these groups are very vulnerable due to hunger or malnutrition in utero and infancy."


Zhenmei Zhang

Additional Media Coverage:

"Babies born during famine have lower cognition in midlife" - Medical Xpress. 12/12/2017.

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