Early Life Exposure and its Effects on Health in the Puerto Rican Elderly Population

McEniry, Mary, Alberto Palloni, Ana Luisa Dávila, and Alberto García Gurucharri
Working paper no. 2008-01


Season of birth may help disentangle the effects on health of early life exposure to poor nutrition and infectious diseases from effects associated with other childhood conditions. Using data from 60 to 74 year old Puerto Ricans who lived in rural areas during childhood (n=1459), we estimated effects of exposure to poor nutrition and infectious diseases during late gestation on the probability of (a) chronic conditions (diabetes, heart disease, obesity), (b) decreased functionality (limitation in at least one ADL and IADL), and (c) poor self-reported health controlling for childhood health and SES and knee height.

Findings: (1) strong associations between exposure and heart disease; (2) virtually no attenuation of effects of self-reported childhood health with controls for exposure; (3) no association between exposure and diabetes, obesity, functionality, poor health.

Conclusions: Timing of birth may reveal conditions experienced perinatally which affect adult heart disease, but there is little evidence of similar effects on adult diabetes and obesity.