Age at first birth and cardiovascular risk factors in the 1958 British birth cohort

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

July 15, 2017


Background To assess relationships between age at first birth and cardiovascular risk factors in a large longitudinal study of men and women. By assessing associations for both genders, we were able to investigate biological versus social and behavioural explanations from early life through to adulthood.

Methods Multiply-imputed data on more than 7600 men and women of a British birth cohort study (National Child Development Study, 1958 British birth cohort) were used. Cardiovascular risk factors at age 44/45 years included body mass index, waist:hip ratio, blood pressure (systolic and diastolic), cholesterol (total, low and high-density lipoprotein), triglycerides, glycated haemoglobin, C reactive protein, von Willebrand factor and fibrinogen. Age at first birth was categorised as <20 years, 20–24 years, 25–29 years, 30–34 years or >34 years.

Results Being younger than 20 years of age at time of first birth was associated with an adverse cardiovascular profile by mid-life. Conversely, older parents had a lower cardiovascular risk as captured by lower body mass index, waist:hip ratio, blood pressure, high and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, glycated haemoglobin, C reactive protein and fibrinogen. The relationship between age at first birth and cardiovascular risk factors was graded. Few differences between men and women were observed. Associations were largely unchanged after adjustment for early life factors but were partially mediated through adult social and behavioural factors.

Conclusions Age at first birth is inversely associated with differences in cardiovascular risk factors in mid-life in a large prospective birth cohort. Our results potentially suggest a social and behavioural rather than a biological explanation.

Published in

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 71 , p.691 -698






Open Access

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest