The authors investigated the shape, sex- and age-dependency, and possible confounding of the association between birth weight and systolic blood pressure (SBP) in 197,954 adults from 20 Nordic cohorts (birth years 1910-1987), one of which included 166,249 Swedish male conscripts. Random-effects meta-regression analyses were performed on estimates obtained from age- and sex-stratified analyses within each of the cohorts. There was an inverse association between birth weight and SBP, irrespective of adjustment for concurrent body mass index. The association was linear for males, but for females with a birth weight greater than 4 kg, SBP increased with birth weight (p < 0.01). The association was stronger in the older age groups (p < 0.05), although this could have been a birth cohort effect. The association was stronger among females than among males (p = 0.005) when birth weight was less than or equal to 4 kg. The estimated effect of birth weight on SBP at age 50 years was -1.52 mmHg/kg (95% confidence interval: -2.27, -0.77) in men and -2.80 mmHg/kg (95% confidence interval: -3.85, -1.76) in women. Exclusion of the Swedish conscripts produced nearly identical results. This meta-analysis supports the evidence of an inverse birth weight-SBP association, regardless of adjustment for concurrent body size. It also reveals important heterogeneity in the shape and strength of the association by sex and age.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Epidemiol

Publication Date





634 - 645


Adolescent, Adult, Age Factors, Aged, Birth Weight, Blood Pressure, Confounding Factors (Epidemiology), Female, Finland, Humans, Iceland, Male, Middle Aged, Regression Analysis, Risk Factors, Scandinavian and Nordic Countries, Sex Factors, Systole