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A ground-breaking study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, reveals a significant association between 74 early-life diseases and the likelihood of remaining childless throughout one's life, with 33 of these diseases prevalent in both women and men.

Family of four members walking at a park © Getty Images - SolStock

Led by Dr Aoxing Liu, University of Helsinki’s Institute for Molecular Medicine in Finland’s (FIMM) and senior authors Melinda Mills, Director the Demographic Science Unit at the The Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH)Andrea Ganna (FIMM) and an international team, the study examined the link between 414 early-life diseases and lifetime childlessness in over 2.5 million individuals born in Finland and Sweden.

In many Western European and East Asian countries, up to 15-20% of individuals born around 1970 are now childless. Although multiple social, economic and individual preferences have been studied, there has been limited research examining the contribution of different diseases to being childless over a lifetime, particularly those diseases with onset prior to the peak reproductive age.

Dr Aoxing Liu, lead author of the study and Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki’s Institute for Molecular Medicine in Finland (FIMM) said, ‘Various factors are driving an increase in childlessness worldwide, with postponed parenthood being a significant contributor that potentially heightens the risk of involuntary childlessness. Our study is the first to systematically explore how multiple early-life diseases relate to lifetime childlessness and low parity in both men and women.’


Read the full story on the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science website.