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-indifference 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 prefamine 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.

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doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2017.1402293, hdl.handle.net/1765/122001
Aging & Mental Health
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM)

van den Broek, T., & Fleischmann, M. (2017). Prenatal famine exposure and mental health in later midlife. Aging & Mental Health, 23(2), 166–170. doi:10.1080/13607863.2017.1402293