Early prediction and psycho-immunologic mediation of minor illness in adulthood.

BACKGROUND: The Barker Hypothesis suggests that an unfavourable uterine environment can have the effect of programming the body for disease later in life. Research indicates a bidirectional relationship between thought and biochemical reactions, that may be influenced by early programming. Reports suggest that 25% of variance in birthweight is a result of foetal environment and that the health and cognitive deficits do not just affect those with an officially low birthweight.

OBJECTIVE: This study investigates the influence of birthweight on cognition and minor illness in adults.

METHODS: This is a retrospective, cross sectional design with an opportunity sample of 75 adults. Participants whose birthweight ranged from 2.5 kg to 4.88 kg, completed a symptom check list and general self-efficacy scale, reporting on the previous month.

RESULTS: Analysis of variance indicates that those with higher birthweight have fewer minor illness symptom days and higher general self-efficacy. Regression analysis indicates that birthweight is significantly predictive of levels of minor illness and general self-efficacy.

CONCLUSION: From the findings of this and previous studies, it is possible to infer vertical coactions between foetal environment and immuno competence. It is suggested that birthweight is an early predictor of levels of a cognitive mediator and minor illness. Data were applied to an equilibrium model to represent the relationship in terms of Gottlieb's concept of horizontal and vertical coactions.

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