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Severe prenatal shocks and adolescent health: Evidence from the Dutch Hunger Winter

Conti, Gabriella; Poupakis, Stavros; Ekamper, Peter; Bijwaard, Govert E; Lumey, LH; (2024) Severe prenatal shocks and adolescent health: Evidence from the Dutch Hunger Winter. Economics & Human Biology , 53 , Article 101372. 10.1016/j.ehb.2024.101372. Green open access

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Abstract

This paper investigates health impacts at the end of adolescence of prenatal exposure to multiple shocks, by exploiting the unique natural experiment of the Dutch Hunger Winter. At the end of World War II, a famine occurred abruptly in the Western Netherlands (November 1944–May 1945), pushing the previously and subsequently well-nourished Dutch population to the brink of starvation. We link high-quality military recruits data with objective health measurements for the cohorts born in the years surrounding WWII with newly digitised historical records on calories and nutrient composition of the war rations, daily temperature, and warfare deaths. Using difference-in-differences and triple differences research designs, we first show that the cohorts exposed to the Dutch Hunger Winter since early gestation have a higher Body Mass Index and an increased probability of being obese at age 18. We then find that this effect is partly moderated by warfare exposure and a reduction in energy-adjusted protein intake. Lastly, we account for selective mortality using a copula-based approach and newly-digitised data on survival rates, and find evidence of both selection and scarring effects. These results emphasise the complexity of the mechanisms at play in studying the consequences of early conditions.

Type: Article
Title: Severe prenatal shocks and adolescent health: Evidence from the Dutch Hunger Winter
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2024.101372
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ehb.2024.101372
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2024 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/).
Keywords: Health, Foetal origins hypothesis, Famine, Prenatal exposure
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Economics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10190337
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