Your Birth Month Influences Your Risk for Diseases

By Carl Engelking | June 9, 2015 4:33 pm

shutterstock_181223432Your Zodiac symbol and birthstone aren’t the only things decided by your birth date: The day you entered this world may also predict your chances of developing ailments like asthma or heart disease.

That’s the conclusion from data scientists who mined a trove of electronic heath data to determine whether a person’s lifetime risk for disease is linked to their birth month. By the looks of their findings, fall babies tend to develop more diseases than babies born any other time of the year.

Mining the Data

Researchers used electronic health data from Columbia University Medical Center in New York that included 1,749,400 individuals born between 1900 and 2000. They extracted the individuals’ birth month as well as the list of conditions they were diagnosed with in their lifetimes. For better results, researchers only analyzed medical conditions that 1,000 or more people from their sample were diagnosed with or treated for.

They found that 55 diseases were significantly linked to birth month. Babies born from September to November were at the highest risk to develop the widest variety of diseases. Babies born in fall, the analysis shows, have a higher chance of developing ADHD, viral infections, and respiratory diseases like asthma. These findings gelled with other studies, as well.

On the other hand, winter babies, born in January through March, are far more likely to develop heart disease than babies born in other months. Interestingly, the exact opposite is true for fall babies; the results indicated that babies born in fall were actually protected against heart disease.

If your birthday falls somewhere between May and August, be sure to toast your good health; that’s because your birth month isn’t correlated with a heightened risk for any disease.

Disease-Map
In all, researchers identified 16 diseases that were never before associated with birth month, and they also confirmed results from past studies. In the study, researchers controlled for sex differences and birth month distributions and used multiplicity correction to verify there was indeed a significant association. If you’d like to take a deeper dive into the numbers, the study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (pdf). 

Making the Connection

Why would this seasonal effect exist? The link between asthma and fall babies, past studies have shown, may have something to do with babies’ heightened exposure to indoor dust mites as people retreat indoors for the upcoming winter. Past studies have also shown that heart disease may be more prevalent in winter babies due to an early-life vitamin D deficiency (which our bodies produce with sun exposure).

The results of this study should be interpreted carefully, researchers said. For one, the study only examined data collected from one hospital in New York City; therefore, health data may be skewed due to New York’s climate. Furthermore, sick patients tend to be overrepresented in electronic health records, because, well, they are visiting the doctor more often.

Still, the study is a fascinating look at how the seasons we are exposed to early in life might play a role in our future health, and could encourage other researchers to dig deeper and uncover the mechanism behind these trends.

 

Photo credit: Green Jo/Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
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  • Trischa

    In the Southern hemisphere January is the middle of summer. So calling a January baby a ‘winter baby’ is a bit dismissive of half the planet, at least geographically speaking. But it might be useful to look at July babies in Australia to see if they came up trumps for dodgy tickers. But then again, what’s ‘Australia’ as a climate? It runs from cool temperate to Mediterranean to Alpine to hot/cold desert conditions. Same thing for the entire globe, there’s the Equator, and the poles, and mountains, and low coastal regions, and everything in between. New York is indeed one tiny climate. Interesting research, but as the researchers said, to be interpreted with care. No wonder science tends to prefers to stick to capillary-thin silos of knowledge. Of course, we pay the price for that narrowness too.

    • M H

      My grandmother was born in March 1864 to 1967 and lived to 103. I have some swamp land for sale. So many other factors need to be considered before making a blanket statement like this. A very active healthy person will always outlive a sedintary fast food eater. It does not matter what month your born in. Researchers are A or B right or wrong personality types who sometimes spend too much time thinking inside the box rather than outside. Get some sun!

      • Heather Wahlquist

        I’m positive neither of you read the whole article. Health, region and accuracy were all addressed by the researcher’s. Perfect example x2, how the term “devil’s advocate” is needed. I’m always amazed.

  • Ursa Major

    Maybe the correlation is with conception month

    • Bobareeno

      Perhaps the day of the week…or the time of day..or the mother’s weight…or the sound of traffic…or the number of lumen emanating from the light fixtures…or, etc.,etc. If ALL the possible variables are measured, THEN we might be able to get the bottom of everything. Data analysis marches on,

  • LStern

    My two October born aunts lived to 95. My March born mother and my July born father died at 73. My June born sister has multiple ailments. Study also contradicts a European study that stated that fall born babies live longest. So, I would not put much weight into this study.

    • Heather Wahlquist

      Thank you for clarifying what the researchers already said. So interesting, your family’s disease schedule. Brilliant reveal.

  • MildredCLewis

    41$/hour@discovermagazine

    >/

  • Sanz Rupantar Bhardwaj

    This a blanket article, not based on all dynamic variables, but some selected constants.

  • dandan

    Would be a great research for universities to replicate in order to get a global indication of local and regaional correlation or differences.

  • Heather Wahlquist

    It’s amazing, isn’t it? Thank god those are the types who don’t vote. Xx

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