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March 03, 2007

Born under a bad sign

bad sign chart

This is one of those things that when you hear it you go "Nah, that can't be true." But it is true... there's a connection between the month in which you were born and your chance of getting certain diseases.

For instance, being born in northern hemisphere in February, March or April increases your risk of developing schizophrenia by between 5% and 10%. People with anorexia are 13% more likely to be born from April to June. Born in the fall? You're 8% more likely to suffer from panic attacks. These findings are the ravings of some crackpots or astrology con-artist... they are well executed, peer-reviewed, statistically valid scientific analyses.

So what the hell is going on? How is this possible? Researchers think it isn't the month in which you're born that makes the difference, it's actually the month in which you were going through key aspects of fetal development. For instance, the hormone melatonin varies with the amount of sunlight and those changing levels in the mother could affect fetal brain development in a way that leads to schizophrenia decades later.

Meanwhile, people with anorexia are statistically more likely to have had an anorexic mother. Perhaps anorexic mothers have a greater chance of becoming pregnant during the warmer summer months? The thought is that that there is slightly less metabolic stress during the warmer summer months, and that might make things just easier enough for an anorexic woman to conceive and bring a pregnancy to term the following spring, right when the spike in future anorexic births occurs.

A great article on all of this appeared in New Scientist back in January, but a paid subscription is needed to see it online. But it looks like The Civic Platform blog has said "screw copyright" and posted it here.

(Thanks to John Barth for the pointer).


Posted by Chris Spurgeon at March 3, 2007 07:23 AM