Findings are based on a study of three separate datasets of women born from 1911 onwards in Great Britain and the USA. “We already know quite of lot about the impact of a person’s very early life or their socio-economic history on health and mortality in later life,” explains researcher Professor Emily Grundy of the Centre for Population Studies, School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London. “But, in this study we were able to analyse the long-term health implications of a person’s partnership and parenting experiences while taking into account education and other indicators of socio-economic status as well.”

The study reveals that partnership and parenting experiences are important influences on later life health. “We show, for example, that having a short birth interval of less than 18 months between children carries higher risks of mortality and poor health,” Professor Emily explains. “That finding is particularly interesting because, to our knowledge, it’s the first time that later health consequences of birth intervals have been investigated in a developed country population.”

This study also provides further evidence of the link between teenage motherhood and poorer health in later life. It also reveals that teenage mothers have poorer mental health at age 53 than other mothers. “What’s particularly interesting here is that our findings indicate poorer health outcomes for women who have children before age 21 regardless of their socio-economic circumstances in childhood,” Professor Grundy points out.

At the other end of the motherhood age scale, this study reveals that women who have a child over the age of 40 experience better health in later life. But the reason, researchers suggest, is not necessarily that having children later makes women healthier rather that women who conceive at that age must already be in good health and feel fit enough to bring children up.; Source: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)