European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 89–93 | Cite as

Association between number of siblings and cause-specific mortality in the Glasgow alumni cohort study

  • B. Galobardes
  • P. McCarron
  • M. Jeffreys
  • G. Davey Smith


In the Glasgow University Alumni cohort, students with no siblings experienced higher respiratory disease mortality. This risk diminished after accounting for potential confounders. We did not find strong evidence of an association with all cause, coronary heart disease, stroke or stomach cancer mortality. Number of siblings is a proxy for other exposures and exploring its association with specific disease outcomes can help disentangle some of the pathways relating early life exposures to adult mortality.


Siblings Childhood Cause-specific mortality Life course Early life exposures 



The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Stroke Association; Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland; the National Health Service Research and Development Cardiovascular Disease Programme; and the World Cancer Research Fund. B. G. is funded by the Medical Research Council through Research Fellowship in Health of the Public. P. M. is supported by a career scientist award funded by the Research and Development Office for Health and Personal Social Services in Northern Ireland. The Centre for Public Health Research (Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand) is supported by a Programme Grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand. The authors’ work was independent of the funding sources


  1. 1.
    Moyes CD. Stature and birth rank. A study of schoolchildren in St Helena. Arch Dis Child 1981;56:116–20.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    O’Leary SR, et al. Is birth order associated with adult mortality? Ann Epidemiology 1996;6:34–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Wagner ME, et al. Family size effects: a review. J Genet Psychol 1985;146:65–78.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Whincup P, et al. Relation of blood pressure to number of siblings. N Engl J Med 1991;325:891.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Okasha M, et al. Determinants of adolescent blood pressure: findings from the Glasgow University student cohort. J Hum Hypertens 2000;14:117–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Lundberg O. The impact of childhood living conditions on illness and mortality in adulthood. Social Sci Med 1993;36:1047–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hart CL, Davey Smith G. Relation between number of siblings and adult mortality and stroke risk: 25 year follow up of men in the Collaborative study. J Epidemiol Community Health 2003;57:385–91.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ball TM, et al. Siblings, day-care attendance, and the risk of asthma and wheezing during childhood. N Engl J Med 2000;343:538–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Galobardes B, et al. Childhood Socioeconomic Circumstances and Cause-specific Mortality in Adulthood: Systematic Review and Interpretation. Epidemiol Rev 2004;26:7–21.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Davey Smith G, et al. Adverse socioeconomic conditions in childhood and cause specific adult mortality: prospective observational study. BMJ 1998;316:1631–35.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    McCarron P, et al. Life course exposure and later disease: a follow-up study based on medical examinations carried out in Glasgow University (1948–68). Public Health 1999;113:265–71.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Galobardes B, et al. Childhood socioeconomic circumstances predict specific causes of death in adulthood: the Glasgow student cohort study. J Epidemiol Community Health 2006;60:527–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Kinra S, et al. Association between sibship size and allergic diseases in the Glasgow Alumni Study. Thorax 2006;61:48–53.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Altieri A, Hemminki K. Number of siblings and the risk of solid tumours: a nation-wide study. Br J Cancer 2007;96:1755–59.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Galobardes
    • 1
  • P. McCarron
    • 2
  • M. Jeffreys
    • 3
  • G. Davey Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social MedicineUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, N. Ireland Cancer RegistryThe Queen’s University of BelfastBelfastUK
  3. 3.Centre for Public Health ResearchMassey UniversityWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations