Article Text

Health of children born to older mothers in the UK
  1. A Sutcliffe1,
  2. J Barnes2,
  3. J Belsky3,
  4. J Gardiner2,
  5. E Melhuish2
  1. 1GAP Unit, University College London Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  2. 2Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues, Birkbeck College, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Human and Community Development, University of California, Davis, USA


Aims There is a strong trend towards later childbearing.1 Older maternity is associated with increased risks of preterm labour, fetal malformations and fetal death, but there has been little research into the longer term welfare of offspring. We studied the effects of maternal age on the health and well-being of children age 9 months to 5 years.

Methods The sample consisted of children in the Millennium Cohort Study2 and the National Evaluation of Sure Start Impact Study.3 Outcomes were: child has had an accident in the last year, child has had a hospital admission in the last year, child has had all recommended immunisations, child's BMI and child's BAS Naming Vocabulary Score. Outcomes were modelled using logistic and linear regression models, polynomial in maternal age. Models controlled for sex, age, parity, birth weight, breast feeding, ethnicity, lone parenting, paternal age, worklessness, income, mother's education and social class. Models of child's BMI controlled for maternal BMI. The sample size at 9 months was 31,257 (table 1).

Results Older motherhood was associated with more favourable outcomes for accidents, hospital admissions, and naming vocabulary. Immunisation rates were better for older mothers at 9 months, and unrelated to maternal age at 3 years once the controversial MMR immunisation was discounted. Child's BMI was unrelated to maternal age.

Conclusions Offspring of older mothers have more favourable outcomes for some measures of health and well-being, once socio-economic factors associated with increased maternal age are controlled.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.