OBJECTIVE: Foetal origins theory has suggested that early environment can affect vulnerability to major diseases in later life. Recent research also suggests that foetal hormonal programming may influence neurotransmitter and hormone levels affecting adult psychological states (i.e. depression and general self-efficacy). However, investigations into early environment and depression have focused on hospitalised or elderly participants, using non-standard measures. This study investigates links between birthweight and depression in a non clinical adult population, as well as links with general self-efficacy and depression.
METHODS: This is a retrospective design. 100 participants mean age 25.9 self reported birthweight, current height and weight to allow computation of BMI. A General Self-Efficacy Scale and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale were also completed. The official classification of low birthweight (2.5 kg) and the median weight for the group (3.26 kg) were used to identify three groups.
FINDINGS: One way ANOVA showed that variance in depression [F = 5.31, (2,97) p =.006] and lower general self-efficacy [F = 4.04, (2,96) p =.021] is explained by membership of birthweight group. There was no variance between depression and age, although general self-efficacy did increase with age [F = 6.13, (2,95) p =.003). There was no significant variance between BMI and birthweight or depression.
DISCUSSION: Findings add to the growing body of research suggesting that foetal environment influences later life, particularly that early programming may affect hormone and neurotransmitter secretions which may influence later life psychological as well as physical health.