Month of birth and height. A case study in rural Spain

  • Referencia: Candela-Martínez, B., Ramallo-Ros, S., Cañabate, J. y Martínez-Carrión. J.M.: “Month of birth and height. A case study in rural Spain”. 2022, Economics and Human Biology (in press). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ehb.2022.101157

Abstract
Introduction.- Season of birth correlates to a wide range of health conditions throughout life measured by anthropometrics. This study explores whether the month of birth and weather during gestation influence male adult height, based on Spain’s rural population before the end of the modernization process.

Methods.- The database of heights (N = 16.266) is composed of conscripts who reached the age of 21 between 1908 and 1985 (birth cohorts 1886-1965). The population sample has been taken from a municipality in inner Spain: Hellín, in the region of Castilla-La Mancha, mainly an agrarian area, with poor resources and low income until the 1970s/1980s. Two different methodologies have been implemented: a harmonic regression using sinusoidal covariables and a random forest model.

Results.- We find that being born at the end of the summer and during the autumn was favorable to height. The birth month with the highest statures is September, with heights 0.5 cm above the annual average and 0.9 cm above February, the birth month with the lowest average height. Furthermore, we can observe that rainfall and temperature during gestation had little additional influence due to a substitution effect with the birth month variable.

Conclusions.- Our results suggest that the seasonal effects on height can be significant and that it can be partially affected by environmental factors during early life. Our findings could be of interest for low-income populations and developing rural societies.

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