Babies born in winter are bigger, brighter and more successful

The weather may be gloomy but the outlook is sunny for boys and girls who arrive now, major new research reveals

For centuries astrologers have sworn that the time of year a baby is born plots the course its life will take. Now extensive research conducted over a seven-year period appears to prove that babies born in the winter are more likely to grow into big, bright and successful adults than their summer counterparts.

The study, which will be published this week, was led by scientists at Harvard University and monitored the development of 21,000 boys and girls worldwide. It shows that there were large seasonal variations when it came to weight, length, height, head size and mental ability.

Researchers believe that the effects on the pregnant mother and the growing foetus of seasonal variations in diet, hormones, temperature, exposure to sunlight and viruses and other infections may influence a baby's characteristics.

The American and Australian psychiatrists and anthropologists from Harvard and Queensland universities measured the children and carried out mental and motor tests at birth, at eight months, and at four and seven years.

Compared to summer births, those born in winter were significantly longer at birth, and were heavier, taller and had larger head circumference at age seven. They also had higher scores in a series of intelligence exercises. By the age of seven, winter- and spring-born children were 210g heavier, 0.19cm taller, and had head circumferences significantly larger than summer and autumn-born children. The results also show that babies born in the winter were the longest, while winter- and spring-borns weighed the most at the age of seven and were also the tallest.

The researchers, whose work appears this week in the medical journal Schizophrenia Research, conclude: "The overall pattern of findings is that winter/spring babies are both 'bigger' on the anthropometric variables and 'smarter' on the selected neurocognitive variables."

The new study is the latest - and largest - in a series of projects worldwide aimed at evaluating the effect of the seasons on human health, longevity and physical and intellectual development. In 2002, scientists at Germany's prestigious Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research announced that people born in the autumn live longer than those born in spring, and do not become as ill in old age.

Studying census data from Denmark, Austria and Australia, the institute also revealed a seasonal link to life expectancy for those older than 50. In Austria, for example, it was found that adults born between October and December lived some seven months longer that those born between April and June.

Dietary changes and seasonal infections are thought to be at the heart of the phenomenon. "A mother giving birth in spring spends the last phase of her pregnancy in winter, when she will eat fewer vitamins," said Gabriele Doblhammer, one of the scientists who carried out the research. "When she stops breast-feeding and starts giving her baby normal food, it is in the hot weeks of summer - when babies are prone to infections of the digestive system."

The season of birth can also influence whether a person is an optimist or pessimist. Yet it is the summer's babies that have a brighter outlook than winter-born grumblers.

The American and Australian researchers offer a number of explanations for such differences in the early years of life. One theory is that foetal exposure to changing seasonal factors such as temperature, rainfall and ultraviolet radiation may be responsible.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Change Manager - London - EMEA & CIS projects

£56500 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...

Ashdown Group: Regional HR Advisor / HR Business Partner - Oxfordshire

£30000 per annum + contributory pension: Ashdown Group: An established Not for...

Ashdown Group: Tester / Test Engineer - Cheshire - Growing Industry Leader

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Ashdown Group: Data Migration Specialist / Architect - SQL Server / SSIS - gro

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003