Study links early-life risk factors with adult lung function

A summary of research published in the European Respiratory Journal

A study has identified a range of factors in early life that could impact lung function in adulthood. There is growing evidence suggesting that early life can give us clues to how lung disease develops as we age.


What did the study look at?

This new study examined early-life events and lung function at 24 years of age, to look for any links.

Researchers used information from a database in the UK, which had gathered information and health measurements of parents and their children from birth to 24 years old.

7,545 children were included in the study. Researchers looked at a range of factors including where they lived, environmental exposures, lifestyle choices, bodily characteristics and lung function measurements.

What do the results show?

The study found that the following factors had the greatest influence on lower levels of lung function in early adulthood:

  • A mother having a low body mass index (BMI)
  • A mother smoking during pregnancy
  • Lower birthweight
  • A baby being born pre-term, before 37 weeks of pregnancy
  • Lower weight of a child at 9 years old (using a lean mass measurement which excluded body fat)
  • Higher body fat measurements of a child at 9 years old.

The results also showed that children with no siblings were more likely to have lower levels of lung function in early adulthood. Childhood asthma was also associated with lower levels of lung function in early adulthood.

Why is this important?

This new study shows the importance of early-life factors for lung function. Health politicians can use these findings to develop health policies that target risk factors to improve lung function and reduce the chance of lung disease later in life.

Further reading

Read the original research paper:

Early-life and health behaviour influences on lung function in early-adulthood