Reproductive History and Mortality in Late Middle Age among Norwegian Men and Women
American Journal of Epidemiology 167 (3), 2008, pages 271-279
There is growing recognition that reproductive patterns may have long-term health implications, although most evidence is restricted to women. The authors used register data to derive fertility histories for all Norwegian men and women born in 1935–1958. Discrete-time hazard modeling was used to analyze later-life mortality by aspects of reproductive history. A total of 63,312 deaths were observed during 14.5 million person-years of follow-up in 1980–2003, when subjects were aged 45–68 years. Models included detailed information on educational qualifications and marital status. Odds of death relative to those for subjects with two children were highest for the childless (women: odds ratio (OR) = 1.50, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.43, 1.57; men: OR = 1.35, 95% CI: 1.30, 1.40) and next highest for those with only one child (women: OR = 1.31, 95% CI: 1.26, 1.37; men: OR = 1.20, 95% CI: 1.16, 1.24). Results for the parous showed a positive association between earlier parenthood and later mortality, a reverse association with late age at last birth, and an overall negative association between higher parity and mortality. The similarity of results for women and men suggests biosocial pathways underlying associations between reproductive history and health. The lack of any high-parity disadvantage suggests that in the “family friendly” Norwegian environment, the health benefits of having several children may outweigh the costs.