The Effect of in Utero Exposure to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic on Life Expectancy in the United States

Elaine M. Hernandez , Indiana University
Jonas Helgertz, University of Minnesota/Lund University
John R. Warren, University of Minnesota
Florencia Torche, Stanford University
Claire Margerison, Michigan State University
Elizabeth Anderson, Indiana University

In utero exposure to maternal infection during the prenatal period may have lasting effects on health over the life course. Infectious pandemics offer one vantage point to isolate the effects of in utero exposure to maternal infection on adult morbidity and mortality, as exposure to infection may increase the chances of developing adult health problems. Yet, we know less about the effects on life expectancy, particularly by timing of exposure. We address this gap by using newly available data linking monthly data on city level influenza mortality with U.S. census and mortality records to assess the effect of in utero exposure to the 1918 pandemic on life expectancy. Our approach will enable (1) increased specificity with regard to the trimester-specific effects of in utero exposure to infection on life expectancy, and (2) will allow us to examine whether the relationship between fetal exposure and life expectancy operates through socioeconomic pathways.

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 Presented in Session 5. Health & Mortality 1