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
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas