Association between the Great China Famine exposure in early life and risk of arthritis in adulthood

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Abstract

Background

The association between famine exposure in early life and risk of arthritis (combination of osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis) in adulthood is unclear. The aim of this study is to explore the association.

Methods

A total of 4124 subjects were selected from the national data of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study in 2011–2012. Doctor-diagnosed arthritis was self-reported in participants’ questionnaire. Birthdates were used to categorise participants into famine-exposed and non-exposed groups. Logistic regression model was used to explore the association of famine exposure in early life with the risk of arthritis in adulthood.

Results

The prevalence of arthritis in both infant-exposed and preschool-exposed groups was significantly higher than those in the non-exposed group (35.0% and 30.6% vs 27.3%; p<0.05). Compared with the non-exposed group, the infant-exposed group showed a significantly elevated risk of arthritis in adulthood after adjusting for confounding factors (OR=1.65; 95% CI 1.29 to 2.11; p<0.001). In the stratified analysis, we found that participants who lived in severely affected areas (OR=1.91; 95% CI 1.41 to 2.59; p<0.001), who are female (OR=2.21; 95% CI 1.57 to 3.11; p<0.001) and those with a body mass index ≥24.0 kg/m2 (OR=2.46; 95% CI 1.70 to 3.55; p<0.001) in the infant-exposed group had increased risk of arthritis in adulthood. Similar results were additionally observed when age-balanced control group was used.

Conclusion

Great China Famine exposure in infancy may be associated with an elevated risk of arthritis in adulthood, particularly in women and participants with adiposity. These findings suggest nutrition intervention in infancy and weight control in later life may reduce the risk of arthritis in adulthood.

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