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Why spring is the worst time to be born

The trees are in bud, the hedgerows full of blossom and lambs are gambolling in the fields -- but spring may be the worst time for human babies to be born.

The first large-scale study of the link between anorexia and the season of birth has found that spring babies are significantly more likely to develop the eating disorder.

The findings, published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, will refocus attention on the season of birth, which, research shows, influences a range of psychiatric and neurological features.



Depression

A growing body of evidence suggests that schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and suicide are all more common among people who were born during springtime.

Environmental factors around the time of conception and during the first three months of pregnancy are considered the likely cause, but it is not known which ones are responsible.

Researchers from Oxford University compared the birth dates of almost 1,300 anorexic patients with the distribution of birth dates in the general population and found "clear evidence" of a season-of-birth effect for anorexia.

Babies born during the period from March to June were 15pc more likely to develop the disorder, the researchers found. In contrast, babies born in the autumn, from September to October, were 20pc less likely to become anorexic.

One of the strongest candidates as a cause of the increased risk of anorexia is vitamin D, which is created by the action of sunlight on the skin.

The vitamin is at its lowest level in the body from January to March after the long winter, the last trimester for a spring baby.

hnews@herald.ie


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