Statisticians ridicule study aligning month you were born with diseases you are likely to catch

'Astrology has never made for great science,' says expert Robert Cuffe

Katie Forster
Health Correspondent
@katieforster
Wednesday 21 June 2017 11:10
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Published under a creative commons licence: creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Published under a creative commons licence: creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Statisticians have dismissed a scientific study linking the month in which someone was born to the diseases they are most likely to catch as no more reliable than a horoscope.

Researchers at the University of Alicante in Spain analysed the birth month of nearly 30,000 people in relation to 27 chronic diseases to see if the season they were born in affected their long-term health.

They found women born in July had a 40 per cent increased risk of incontinence, while men born in September were nearly three times more likely to suffer thyroid problems than those born in January.

However, Dr Robert Cuffe, an ambassador for the Royal Statistical Society, told The Independent: “Astrology has never made for great science”.

“If you look at 12 months for each of 27 conditions and two genders (628 possible links), you’re guaranteed to see chance patterns that appear amazing,” he said.

“Many of the conditions identified here are different to the ones identified in a similar study two years ago, which you wouldn’t expect if these were real associations.”

The study, published in the journal Medicina Clinica, suggested that being born in the summer or winter months could have an effect on a foetus’s immune system as it develops in the womb.

Sunlight could trigger the production of vitamin D, which may play a vital role in development and affect the chance of contracting serious diseases later in life, the researchers speculated.

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The study found that overall, babies born in sunny September had the lowest chance of being diagnosed with a chronic disease.

Women born in July were more than a quarter more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, while men born in June were 34 per cent less likely to have depression, reported The Telegraph.

Instances of osteoporosis were seen to be higher in women born in April, May, September and October, while men born in March, June and December appeared more likely to suffer from cataracts.

Professor Jose Antonio Quesada, who led the study, said birth month “may behave as an indicator of periods of early exposure to various factors, such as exposure to ultraviolet rays, vitamin D, temperature, seasonal exposure to viruses and allergies which may affect the development of the uterus and neonate in their first months of life.”

“The differentiation of patterns by sex found that there may be a different vulnerability in men and women to these early exposure factors.”

A 2015 study from Columbia University in New York found 55 diseases with links to someone’s season of birth, including asthma, ADHD and reproductive issues.

People born in October were more likely to experience a number of respiratory illnesses, but were less likely to develop several cardiovascular diseases.

But the researchers warned that there were many more important variables than birth month related to whether someone will develop a chronic condition, including diet, exercise and stress levels.

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